Life Is Hard, and Then...Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Judah was exiled after suffering and hard service. She lives among the nations; she finds no rest. All who were chasing her caught her —right in the middle of her distress. (CEB)
Several years ago, I kept running into the unhappy thought: Life is hard, and then you die. For some reason, this saying showed up on bumper stickers, T-shirts, and other places where platitudes flourish. I’m not quite sure why it became so popular, though I suppose it was an ironic response to the naïve idealism that dominated much of our culture in the late 20th century. (Of course, this saying spawned a whole school of imitators, including, Life is hard...suck it up; Life is harder when you’re stupid; and many more.)
The book of Lamentations would agree with the main thesis of all of these sayings: Life is hard. This was especially true for the Jews in the first part of the sixth century B.C. As Babylon asserted its superior power over Judah, the Jews experienced suffering, hard service, and exile. Separated from their homeland, they struggled simply to remain alive. Lamentations 1:3 explains that they were, as a scattered people, who found no rest.
In our world, life is certainly hard for those who live under political or economic oppression. It may be harder still for exiles who often find themselves unwelcome and impoverished in the places where they dwell. Yet, the hardness of life isn’t simply a result of political oppression and violence. In fact, the theological root of life’s difficulties can be found in the opening chapters of Genesis. There we learn that God created the world fully good, as a place where human beings could flourish. Yet they rejected God and his ways. As a result, life became hard. Women still gave birth, but in extreme pain. Men still worked the soil, but in pain as they battled with thorns, thistles, and other hardships. Life is hard, not because God wanted it that way, but because hardness goes hand in hand with sin.
Biblically informed people should not be surprised when life is hard. Lamentations is one of many biblical books that underscores the difficulties we face on this earth. Yet, as Christians, we should not live with resignation. Our bumper sticker would have to be a little longer: Life is hard, and, yes, you will die. But, in the meanwhile, God is redeeming this world and you get to share in that redemption through Christ. Yes, life will still be hard, but God will be with you, and then you will die...and then you will live forever. Hallelujah!
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Why do you think the “Life is hard” saying became so popular? What does this tell us about our culture? If life is hard, what keeps us from falling into a pit of resignation? What gives you hope in your work, your community, and your home?
PRAYER: Gracious God, yes, life is hard. Sometimes the hardness of life is acute and obvious, when people are oppressed or exiled, or when we suffer with sickness and sadness, or when we face poverty and desperation. But even in the good times–and for these we give thanks–here are still reminders of life’s difficulties.
O God, we know you didn’t mean for life to be this way. We see in Scripture the sorry story of our sin, as well as the good news of your salvation. We are encouraged by the reality of the new creation. One day, you will mend that which has been broken, including us.
In the meanwhile, help us to endure life’s hardships with patience and hope. Keep us from resignation and defeat. May we never be surprised when life is hard, and may we never cease praying for your kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth. Furthermore, may we be instruments of your peace, love, and justice in our work and life, so that all may catch glimpses of your coming kingdom. Amen.