Summary: Second in a series on popular illusions; and for Independence Day. Life will not cease to be a struggle if justice is not fully realized, feelings are not fully expressed, and wrong decisions are not fully reversed.
What kind of a retirement party was this? He had worked so long, he had struggled with so many things, and now, here, at the end, it seemed there was still unfinished business. His worries were not behind him, nor were all the issues settled. And why not? Had he no right to expect that now life would cease to be a struggle? Had he no right to hope that as the specter of death loomed on the horizon, there might be a time of peace and quiet? He had struggled all his life. Why could he not put it all behind him now?
His boyhood had been a struggle. The farm was poor, and as the youngest son it seemed he had had to take on all the chores his brothers didn’t want to do. The dirty work with the animals; the long lonely hours way off from the homestead, all of that had been dumped on him. His brothers had had all the glamorous opportunities -- off to battle they went, wearing their spiffy uniforms, while he, too young to fight, was relegated to carrying out sandwiches and first aid kits. As a youngster, he had had a struggle to be taken seriously. It seemed as though when there was something distasteful to do, some job too hard for anybody else, they put it on him. III equipped, ill trained, too small and inexperienced, still they expected him to be able to slay giants! It really had been too much! Life had always been a struggle. Was it really too much to expect that now, after all these years, life might cease to be a struggle?
Forty years! A whole generation! Nobody knew the trouble he’d seen. Nobody knew his trials. Rebellion from within the ranks, in fact, rebellion from within his own family. His own son fighting against him! "How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child!"
Struggles, too, of his own making. He had been headstrong and covetous. He had had a wandering eye, he had been too much in love with power, but he had paid the price for that. He had suffered enough! Must that follow, even in old age? No, now it was time to rest, time to back off, time to get out the old fishing pole and just let life roll by. Now was the time to expect that life would cease to be a struggle.
But it was not to be. For there was as yet unfinished business, there were as yet incomplete battles and unresolved conflicts. David, King of Israel, discovered what all of us must discover: that if one of our great expectations is that life will cease to be a struggle, we are mistaken. If one of our great expectations is that all the questions will be answered, all the issues done with, all the loose ends wrapped up, then we are in for a huge disappointment.
But an early hint: there is a source of strength with which you can carry on the struggles. There is a source of strength.
David, after forty years on the throne, speaks to his son Solomon about these incomplete struggles. David had been formed in struggle, matched up with Goliath the giant. He had been launched in struggle, subject to the moodiness and the bad temper of old King Saul. He had been tempered in struggle, battling ceaselessly with the Philistines. David had been matured in struggle, handling the arrogance of his general Joab and crushing the rebellion of his son Absalom. And, most of all, David had been disciplined in struggle, for the Lord God would not tolerate his dalliance with another man’s wife nor his wanton destruction of that same man’s life.
Look with me at the stuff David still had on his plate, after forty arduous years:
First, he was still struggling with injustices not fully corrected. David was not at ease, for there was still an injustice that had not been resolved, a wrongdoing that had not been corrected. Life will always be a struggle, and should be, as long as we know there are injustices we could confront.
David spoke of Joab, his old general. Joab, that capable, effective, but headstrong and willful soldier. "You know what Joab ... did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner ... and Amasa .... whom he murdered, retaliating in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war ... Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace." David is saying, there is unfinished business, justice business, which I never finished. I let it go. But it cries out to be finished. Justice must be done, Joab must pay for his crime. I’m not going to be able to rest as long as injustice remains.