Vocation, Suffering and the Struggle for Meaning

Jesus was in the garden facing torture and death. He asked God to let the cup pass from him. But he finally conceded that it was not what he willed, but what God wills. What his vocation cost him seemed more than he could bear. I identify with that. The extent of my struggle fades in comparison. But I understand what it means to do something difficult reluctantly, to do what I must rather than what I prefer. Especially when things don't make sense.

I struggle with my call to pastor. I find it very difficult, not because I don't love the people or the church, but because it hurts. There have been a couple of times in my life when a prophecy has come to pass for me. Once in a blue moon there has been confidence that things made sense. But almost all the time I walk in darkness. Only my next step is illuminated, and that only sometimes, and pale. I can't find meaning.

I was talking with a friend today who had moved here with his family to be a part of our community. Just after they arrived and made friends, we went through a crisis at the church and much of what they came for disintegrated before their eyes. This has happened so many times and applies to so many people I love. When people move here to be a part of our church, I want them to be happy. I want things to go according to their hopes. I need to provide them meaning, especially when things get rough. But I can't. I can only love them. I can care. I can be tender. I can be there. That's all.

The main theme in Job is meaning. He was offensively transparent in his insistence that there was no meaning in his suffering. His friends claimed to have meaning. Who did God exonerate in the end? The one who was blind to meaning. And the ones who claimed to have meaning repented. I can't  find meaning for myself, for my friends or for my community. But, like Job, I have to trust that God has the meaning. The meaning is God's. Occasionally, like once or twice in a lifetime, we get glimpses of meaning. But in the end we must simply trust that the story we are in is written with a compassionate hand. And all we can do in the midst of this is love one another. That is the best meaning I can give. For now.


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