Job, in the middle of being rebuked by his "friends," declared, "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble." In other words, from Job's point of view, life is rather short and sour.
Who could blame him for such an observation? Job had just lost virtually all of his worldly possessions, including every one of his children.
Certainly few, if any, of us have suffered or are suffering as Job did. Nevertheless, these are difficult days for many. Trying times such as these make it quite apparent that this life is "full of trouble."
Currently, for most, the source of such trouble is financial. Virtually every opinion poll that surveys Americans on national priorities reveals that U.S. citizens overwhelmingly see the economy as the No. 1 priority. Nothing reveals the harshness of life quite as clearly as financial difficulties.
After all, as the Book of Job describes, when Satan was given permission to test Job, his first strike was against Job's financial well being.
Satan then took Job's children from him. Is there any heavier burden in this world than the one carried by the parent who must bury his child? Job had to bury many.
Being a "righteous man," and having the proper perspective on life and possessions, upon hearing of the death of his children, Job's prior losses almost certainly vanished from his mind. All of his other sufferings surely paled in comparison.
Yet, Job persevered. He fell down and worshipped God, declaring, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."
Unemployment, business failure, divorce, sickness, hunger, poverty, pain, death - there is virtually no limit to the tribulations facing us in this dark world. This should come as no surprise, as Scripture frequently reveals. The Apostle John tells us "the world around us is under control of the evil one."
As C.S. Lewis, a veteran of World War I, put it, "Enemy-occupied territory - that is what the world is." Jesus noted that, "In this world (we) will have trouble."
However, Christ also tells us, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
In spite of what this world will bring us, Christ tells us we have no reason to fear or doubt. Whatever our circumstances or situation, He will give us peace.
Peace. Isn't that what so many of us are searching for? As we pursue money, relationships, good health, notoriety, retirement and so on, are we not really striving for that "peace ... that passes all understanding"?
Whatever trials, whatever evil may come our way, don't we really just want to know that everything is going to be all right?
As Job and others reveal, human beings can be amazingly resilient, able to cope with most anything - even death - as long as we have peace about it. And there is no peace like God's peace.
Of course, God's peace is nothing like the hippie, liberal, Code Pink flower child idea of peace. God never tells us that following Him will mean an end to all conflict and struggle in this fallen world. His peace comes as a result of His righteousness and justice, and as with all good things, His love.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" sang the angels announcing the coming of the Christ child. Thus God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy and righteousness, decided to invade this "enemy-occupied" territory and make things right.
However, Jesus didn't simply come into the world "to make bad people good," notes Ravi Zacharias. "He came into the world to make dead people live."
What greater comfort, what greater peace, is there than to know that, even if the valley of the shadow of death overcomes us, we will yet live? "Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?"
What a reason for a celebration! What a time for a holiday! As Christmas approaches, may the "Prince of Peace" give you all that you truly need and are longing for.
Trevor Thomas is a Gainesville resident and occasional columnist.