Friday, September 04, 2009

Has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?

You who fear the Lord, wait for His mercy

Ecclesiasticus 2

You who fear the Lord, wait for His mercy;
do not stray, or else you may fall.
You who fear the Lord, trust in Him,
and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the Lord, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
Consider the generations of old and see:
has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?
Or has anyone persevered in the fear of the Lord and been forsaken?
Or has anyone called upon Him and been neglected?
For the Lord is compassionate and merciful;
He forgives sins and saves in time of distress.



Note: Ivan, of Brothers Karamazov, would answer this rhetorical question, yes. "Yes, many have trusted in the Lord and been disappointed!" But Dostoevsky, the author of Brothers Karamazov, would answer resoundingly, no! No, the one who trusts in the Lord will not be disappointed. How can such an author, who utterly believes in God, pen the strongest literary argument against God? It baffled critics in his day, and confounds critics still. Why? How? The answer brings light. And it is for you, faithful reader, to discern!

Selah, indeed.


Listener said...

Oh yes, that’s easy to answer. Quite often, when I trust in the Lord, to answer my prayers the way I want Him to, I become extremely disappointed. Someday, I suppose I will understand why He told me “No” so many times. On that day, I suppose, I will agree that His answers were and are the best. Until then, I can only assume that I’m merely an ignorant child in His arms.

As to your question on Dostoevsky, that’s easy too. How can such an author, who utterly believes in God, pen the strongest literary argument against God? Dostoevsky lived his life somewhere in the middle of the Book of Job. Most people who read Job, focus their attention on the beginning and the end of the story, and I agree those are the most enlightening chapters. But Dostoevsky, unlike most of us, had a faith as strong as Job’s. He knew and breathed and felt the presence of God so strongly, and at the same time was confronted by so much worldly evidence against God, that for him (and for Job during his debates) the conflict between those two realms was a far more realistic conflict than it is for someone of a lesser faith.

Most of us don’t realize how much of a blessing it is, simply to be an ignorant child in His arms.

Loy Mershimer said...

Delightfully right on both accounts, Listener.

Many have trusted in the Lord for personal expression and been disappointed, but no one has trusted in the Lord for the sake of inner life and been disappointed; truly it is said, "Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." The key is the delight. For a man or woman to delight in the Lord, in that moment, their will is one with divine will. They are living the prayer of Jesus in that moment: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

For such a person, the will of God is a foregone conclusion -- as is the delight of their heart: layers of transcendent meaning and joy.

On the second part re: Dostoevsky:

Dostoevsky was mocked by the intelligentsia of the day for being irrational and blind in holding to his face [in light of the searing questions given profound shape in his book]. Dostoevsky dismissed their mockery with convicting words: "Fools! How can you understand my faith when you cannot even understand my doubt?"

The mockery gradually faded away: they couldn't even understand his doubt. They weren't the ones who penned the strongest literary argument against God; he was. And he still believed with the deepest fibers of his being: he answered their false intellect with existential truth.

Excellent response, Listener, and thank you!


Listener said...

Ok, so now that we agree on these two thoughts, let me ask you a question: How does one such as Job or Dostoevsky find this delight? Surely for them the quest was more challenging than most. I do not get the impression that either was satisfied until they saw the face of their King. Nor could they claim delight until they did.

Loy Mershimer said...

Related to delight, if we are looking for something static that we can own and build a box around, I don’t think we’ll be happy for long… because the reality is more dynamic: centered not in ourselves but in the Other. It’s the kingdom reality of “now and not yet” – moments of completed reality, but in human relation, always moving forward in time and in current circumstance.

Both Job and Dostoevsky show us that delight contains long periods of struggle; it is no stranger to plaguing doubts, deep questions and trial.

I think the answer is in relation: just as we wouldn’t claim love is complete and satisfactory – it has to keep growing and giving and serving and re-filling, so we stand in relation with our Lord: we have to keep growing, receiving and giving.

To expand the Job and Dostoevsky illustration to the whole human story [which it is], we’d have to bring in the psalmist, especially related to delight. He speaks of this delight as a river, a flowing divine stream, pure drink: I feast on the abundance of your house, O Lord, and drink from the river of your delight; in your life we see light.

The delight of God is ongoing meat and drink, a stream entered and flowing, dynamic; it is light discovered in the life of God. There is a kingdom dualism here: the delight is now and not yet, in us and flowing to us, which we must ever drink anew, until we drink new in that Kingdom.

[continued in part II following]

Loy Mershimer said...

[part II]

So we would say the answer is not only in relation, but in revelation – divine life made known and revealed in light: moments of light, ongoing: answer in theosis.

One of the clearest examples of this light is in the Job story: He receives NO answers to his queries. None. Not even a cognitive answer from the Holy One when encounter finally comes: he is only granted the answer of Presence, and this is enough light to shatter all his questions – in their essence and context.

So instead of demanding answers, Job bows and confesses: "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes see you – and I repent in dust and ashes." In the Presence, he realizes that even his highest questions are tainted with self-centered focus; what he has shouted to the skies was faith, and yet not faith. In the Presence he is ashamed of his former words; his scroll of questions withers in his hands. “Lord, I see YOU, and repent.” Same with Isaiah, when he saw the Lord high and lifted up: the holiest man of his generation, he says, “I am a man of unclean lips, among a people of unclean lips.”

This revelation is our delight: it brings high confession and attendant purity; in a moment we see the universe for what it is. In that moment, we repent and have new life, new delight.

These two answers, relation and revelation, are met in worship.

This is why we worship: to enter revelation and move up in relation. This is life-saving and life-giving.

Consider the brutally honest faith journey of the psalmist: “My feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. Pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth… This is what the wicked are like--always carefree, they increase in wealth.

“Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence! All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.

But then the turn – revelation and relation:

If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me… till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

The answer to this gut-wrenching, searching cry – to a man who had known the delights of God, but almost lost that foothold of faith in the injustice of the human story… only as he entered the sanctuary of God, and beheld in light the reality of divinity, the perspective of the Eternal, only in enacted obedience in relation, and attendant revelation, did delight flow again.

So yes, the answer is in the Face of Truth. The One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

But even then, this answer, this delight, is relation. It is ongoing revelation.

For in the end, delight is not something that we possess, but Something that possess us. At the end of the day, delight, like Truth, is a Person.

We cannot own it. We can only enter it, and agree with it.

There, we discover our true selves, our life, our destiny.


Listener said...

Well said Loy. Twice I have spoken. Now I shall rest.