Commentary by Walter Albritton


April 9, 2006


When All Seems Hopeless, Tie a Knot in Your Rope & Hold On


Job 14:1-2, 11-17; 32:6, 8; 34:12; 37:14, 22


Key Verse: All the days of my service I would wait until my release should come. – Job 14:14


          Hopelessness is a terrible feeling. It can rob you of the desire to live, causing you even to wish you were dead. You feel like strong hands have you by the throat so that you can hardly breathe. I know. I have struggled with this demon of the dark. Most of us have. Life is not a cake walk.

          Job is the classic biblical example of one whose trials drove him into the pit of hopelessness. This Sunday’s lesson shows us Job mired in the ash heap of misery and bitterness. Our hearts break for the man. We can hardly fathom the depth of his distress.

          Job’s friends cause us to smile. His friends were not much help. We have been there too. We know how empty platitudes sound when friends who mean well manage to do very little to assuage our pain. Their shallow understanding feels like condemnation though we realize they were trying to help us.

Indeed sometimes our friends make matters worse by admonishing us not to feel the way we feel. Real friends affirm us in our pain and somehow give us a glimmer of hope that the night will not last forever. Job’s friends drove him deeper into despair by insisting that he deserved his suffering. What Job needed, and what we all need most, is someone who will help us trust God and cling to the idea that there has got to be “another morning.”

Elihu does something for Job that his friends could not do. Elihu challenges Job; he makes him question his assumptions about God. He helps Job realize the greatness of God and reminds him that it is the nature of God to be just. So Job must recant of having accused God of injustice. Job eventually finds victory over hopelessness and chooses to put his full trust in God no matter what suffering must be endured.

Where helpful word can we say to our friends when the bottom falls out? The best counsel may be this humorous maxim we have heard many times: “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hold on!” We could strengthen it by adding Jesus to the equation: “When you come to the end of your rope, trust Jesus; let him help you tie a knot in it and hold on!”

Essentially what we have as believers is confidence in God’s power to rescue us. The name “Jesus” after all means “God to the rescue.” The strange paradox is that by refusing to rescue Jesus from death on the cross, he made it possible for us to be rescued from the kingdom of darkness.

When all seems hopeless to us, we can remember the cross. The cross represents utter hopelessness. Yet God took over and turned the cross into a magnificent symbol of hope. So when all else fails, trust God! He is able to transform defeat into victory and despair into hope. The empty cross reminds us of the resurrection. Death is not the end! There is life beyond the grave; God says so!

The idea of tying a knot in a rope suggests there is something God wants us to do. Think about it. If I tie a knot in my rope, I am still at the end of it. I am helpless unless God comes to my rescue. This is where trust comes in.

To trust God is not only to hold on but also to ask Him to hold on to my hand. We trust God by hearing Him say to us what He said to Isaiah, “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13). Ultimately faith is believing that I can hold on to the rope only because God is holding on to me.

Holding on means trusting God’s timetable. In our flesh we want God to come immediately. Though He can, He seldom does. He waits for us to realize that we cannot save ourselves, that He is our only hope. Then, as Jesus was born “in the fullness of time,” God comes to us in the moment He has chosen to deliver us by his mighty power into his Kingdom. He leaves us no “wiggle room” to suppose that we have saved ourselves; he shows us plainly that we were saved by grace, and grace alone.

We have a great advantage over Job. We can learn from the Psalmist who shows us how to overcome despair: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

Our greatest advantage, of course, is the cross. The Romans on that fateful day looked at Jesus hanging on that cruel cross, bleeding and dying. They thought that was the end of him. But they were wrong! What they had no way of knowing was that in that moment “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

When all seems hopeless, beloved, and you have reached the end of your rope, trust Jesus; tie a knot in your rope and hold on until he rescues you. He will come. I know He will. I have bet my life on it! Until he does, hold on! When he does come, he will give you the grace to rise above hopelessness and rejoice in the blessed hope that he has put in your heart.

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