Are we each alone?

“Each heart knows its own bitterness,
    and no one else can share its joy.”

There’s a lonely thought. What sad-hearted cynic penned this? Actually it comes from the Bible. Proverbs 14:10.

What is it saying? Are we each indeed alone? In human terms, we may well be. If we are each unique, if the modern proverb is right (and I believe it is) that there will never be another you, then it is inevitable that we will never know anyone exactly like ourselves. If this is what true companionship depends upon, we are indeed each alone. We are each unique in our experiences of sorrow and joy, the things that encourage and the things that perturb. Whose heart knows exactly the same notes of tragedy or of triumph? No one.

Some years back I attended a large family reunion. Early morning before it started I roamed our motel parking lot wondering whether I really looked forward to this event. I wasn’t typical, I was different. But then I thought how everyone probably had their own list why they are different, the things that other people don’t just get. I summed it up with the ironic thought, “We are each alone.” No one exactly like me. But I'm not the only one alone, we all are.

We can extend grace to one another, remembering to be kind when we do not understand. It is not easy to be misunderstood, we all know that. But can we ever really, fully understand? So let us strive to be kind when we do not understand, remembering when we were not understood. And let us turn our hearts, and encourage one another to turn our hearts towards God, the one who does know and does understand.

Our covenant making and keeping God

The maker and keeper of covenants, the one determined to redeem his people even though they don’t deserve it. Remember, the one who promised a new Covenant when his people broke the earlier Covenant (Jer 31:31,32). The one who promised to return all Israel, the northern kingdom as well as  Judah from captivity. (Ezekiel 37:19-22). So let us remember God as the keeper of covenants.

Life is difficult

“Life is difficult.” This first sentence of M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled is startling. Peck goes on to say that this truth, once grasped makes life simple. Probably an exaggeration to make a point, but the point makes sense. If you start out thinking life should be easy, you are disturbed and upset when it is not. If you start out thinking life is difficult, the difficulty can become easier to bear. Yes, this thing, this event in my life is awkward, annoying, gruesome, horrifying. But it’s not like I was singled out to be made miserable when almost everyone else has it easy. I can see embracing this truth could make you more inclined to gratitude, to appreciate what is good rather than angrily critique what is not perfect.

I am not totally shocked by the concept that life starts out difficult. But I have often felt the expectation that it should become easy. Such is the notion of progress we’ve all grown up with. Technology is getting better and better, so life should be getting easier and easier. A new software comes along, we’re excited. Wow, in just a few clicks we can get something that took hours by typing before. But when something comes up that is still complicated? They didn’t think through this part. I hope the next version makes this part easy.

In the spiritual life, there is a similar view. God has saved us, brought us into his kingdom; if we really understood the Gospel, if we just have enough faith, if we learn to pray correctly, read Scripture correctly, do something else correctly, all should be well. No major difficulties left in life since God is with us.

But in the implications of the Gospel, in the calling of Jesus to die to ourselves, take up the cross daily as we follow, there is a clear reminder that life with God still remains difficult, even despite all the ways he has blessed us. He blesses in part, and leaves us to wait, to follow through awkwardness and pain, to come to him with our heart agonies that may still remain agonies after we pray, the answer “not yet, not yet. My grace is sufficient for you.”