4th February 2024
Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity's Gate)
Vincent van Gogh 1890
Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity's Gate) is an 1890 oil painting by Vincent van Gogh, completed two months before his death. Based on an earlier lithograph and inspired by a 1882 drawing of a war veteran, the artwork portrays an elderly man in deep despair with his head in his hands.
Despite the apparent sorrow, van Gogh titled it "At Eternity's Gate," expressing his belief in a life beyond death and a connection to the divine. The title suggests that even in moments of profound sorrow, van Gogh clung to a faith in God and eternity. The painting is a poignant exploration of the human experience, revealing the artist's struggle with existential questions and his search for a connection to the divine.
Job 7:1-4, 6-7
1 Is not man's life on earth nothing more than pressed service, 2 his time no better than hired drudgery? 3 Like the slave, sighing for the shade, 4 or the workman with no thought but his wages, 4 months of delusion I have assigned to me, nights of grief have I weighed out for myself. 6 Swifter than a weaver's shuttle my days have passed, and vanished, leaving no hope behind. 7 Remember that my life is but a breath, and that my eyes will never again see joy.
New American Standard Bible:
1 Is not man forced to labour on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired man? 2 As a slave pants for the shade, and as a hired man eagerly waits for his wages, 3 So am I allotted months of futility, And nights of trouble are appointed me. 4 When I lie down I say, 'When shall I arise? But the night continues, And I am continually tossing until dawn. 6 My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle and come to an end without hope. 7 "Remember that my life is but breath; My eye will not again see good.
English Standard Version:
1 Has not man a hard service on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired hand? 2 Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hired hand who looks for his wages, 3 so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. 4 When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. 6 My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle and come to their end without hope. 7 “Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.
The Book of Job discusses a problem that has distressed people of all time: why are there so many people in the world who suffer?
Why is the world plagued by so many calamities, injustices, wars, disease, disappointments… Something else is puzzling; we often see upright people suffering while wicked people enjoy success and prosperity. The Book of Job was written to reflect on this problem.
Job was a very religious person, always well behaved and yet he was struck by an endless string of calamities. He comments on the sad condition of humans in the world; the toil and hardship that characterise human life. He uses metaphors of a hired labourer and a slave to convey the heaviness and weariness of existence… His own experience is worse than that because these labourers at least can rest at night, but he finds no relief.
Why did God allow him to fall into such a desperate state? Why did he allow him to be born if he was to experience only misfortune and pain? Job is not resigned; he doesn’t suffer in silence; he gives vent to his sorrow in front of God and boldly asks him to explain the reason for his afflictions. His cry is a deeply touching prayer.
Some key lessons that can be drawn from the story:
1. The Mystery of Suffering: The book does not provide a straightforward answer but invites reflection on the mystery of human suffering and the limitations of human understanding.
2. Testing of Faith: Job's story is often seen as a test of faith. The narrative challenges the idea that prosperity is always a sign of God's favour and that adversity is always a punishment for sin.
3. God's Sovereignty and Wisdom: The story underscores God's sovereignty over all aspects of creation. Divine wisdom and knowledge surpass human understanding. It highlights the limitations of human knowledge and the need to trust in God's greater plan.
4. Prayer and Relationship with God: Throughout the book, Job engages in dialogue with God, expressing his frustrations, doubts, and, ultimately, his submission to God's will. This highlights the importance of prayer and maintaining a relationship with God even in times of hardship.
5. Redemption and Restoration: The conclusion of the story sees Job's fortunes restored, emphasizing the theme of divine redemption. This suggests that, ultimately, God is a God of justice and restoration. The story offers hope that, despite present suffering, there can be a future restoration.
Almighty and Merciful God, as I contemplate the words of Job, I’m humbled by the depth of his suffering and the honesty of his lament. In the face of life's challenges, I, too, bring before You the burdens of my heart.
Lord, I too have known the weariness of hard service on this earthly journey. I have felt the weight of days at times, my soul has longed for the evening shadows, yearning for the rest that seems distant.
In the midst of my own struggles, help me, Lord, may Your peace, which surpasses understanding, guard my heart and mind. Teach me to trust in Your sovereignty and embrace the fleeting nature of this life with a perspective rooted in eternity, give me wisdom of heart.
Lord, hope can wane in the face of life's challenges. Yet, in this moment of prayer, I lift my eyes to You, the source of all hope. Be my anchor in the storm and let Your light pierce through the darkness.
May my journey always be guided by faith, and may I seek Your presence in both joy and sorrow. I surrender my fears and uncertainties to You, confident that Your love is my refuge.
Renew my spirit, O Lord, and grant me the strength to face each day with trust in Your providence. Amen.
In the stillness of this contemplative moment, I reflect on the words of Job, and I find echoes of my own struggles and questions.
The imagery of a hired labourer, the weariness of toil, and the fleeting nature of life resonate deeply within my soul.
As I contemplate the weaver's shuttle, swiftly moving across the loom, I ponder the swiftness of my own days. The brevity of life becomes a mirror reflecting the fragility of my existence. In this awareness, I encounter the mystery of Your divine plan, O God.
In my own interactions, grant me the grace of empathy and understanding. May I be a source of genuine comfort and support, steering away from judgment and offering the solace of compassionate presence.
The contemplation of Job's prayerful appeal to You, O God, stirs within me a recognition of my own need for communion with You. As I lift my own concerns and desires to You, may I find assurance that You hear my prayers, even in the midst of the night's darkest hours.
I surrender my questions, my fears, and my longing for understanding. I rest in the assurance that Your love encompasses all, and Your divine plan unfolds in ways beyond my grasp. May the lessons of Job deepen my trust in Your providence and guide my journey with steadfast faith.