A Life of Quiet Desperation?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Henry David Thoreau said: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."
I know it's true for so many all over the world, struggling just to find food and water and shelter. How often I've tried to help someone with the burdens of just surviving! But I wondered, "Does Thoreau's statement hold true for Christians who love God? Are their lives as quietly desperate as the people who know nothing of God's love and compassion?
I thought of one of my Christian friends who seems to cope with a difficult life with dogged determination, if not exuberance. He works at a very demanding, high-tech job, analyzing and servicing machines critical to manufacturing. His two grown children live far across the country. He has to be away from home much of the time, traveling all over the continent to do his work. He and his wife both have severe health issues, so they have constant financial pressure. Does he live a life of quiet desperation?
I asked him, "What is the hardest thing you face when you go to work each day?"
He answered thoughtfully, "Making sure I do exactly what God wants me to do. So I ask, ‘Lord, please show me Your will for today.' And then all day long I hear His voice guiding me. Sometimes it's a hard-to-please customer. Sometimes it's a malfunctioning machine I need to get back on line. Sometimes it's a problem management needs me to solve. At the end of the day, I feel like I have done what God wanted me to do."
Isaiah was an Old Testament prophet God sent to confront the nation of Israel with their sin. He went through such a time of "quiet desperation." God had told him,
"You are my servant. You will bring me glory." (Isaiah 49:3)
But nobody was listening to Isaiah's warnings. Nobody wanted to give up their greed and lust and selfishness. So Isaiah said to God,
"But my work all seems so useless!
I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose at all" -Isaiah 49:4
Quiet desperation. Futility. He was a failure, Isaiah thought, trying to use well the one life God had given him to serve Him. But then Isaiah came to the right conclusion:
"Yet I leave it all in the Lord's hand;
I will trust God for my reward." -Isaiah 49:4
But, like Isaiah, and like my friend expressed so poignantly, "I want to know I'm doing what God wants me to do." So God answered Isaiah with comforting authority:
"And now the LORD speaks-
He who formed me in my mother's womb to be His servant,
who commissioned me to bring His people of Israel back to Him.
The LORD has honored me, and my God has given me strength." -Isaiah 49:5
So, dear friend, if you struggle with "quiet desperation," listen to God's authoritative answer: He made you to serve Him, and you do it all day long by doing the tasks He's given you to do, however mundane and physical they may seem to you. The Lord will honor you, and He will give you the strength you need for today's extraordinary tasks. He promised He would!