Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 18, 2009

When you come to the end of your rope tie a knot in it and hold on

          Few things are as difficult as hopelessness. To be drained of hope is about as bad as life gets. If despair takes over you may even wish you were dead. I know. I have struggled with these demons of the dark. Most people have. Life is not a cake walk. It is often a journey wracked with pain.

          That is why it helps to hear the stories of people who somehow overcame the loss of hope. The biblical story of Job is a good example. Job did not let his troubles defeat him. Even though he was mired in the ash heap of misery he found a way to recover hope for living. Despite his losses, he went on living. So we can learn from people like Job how to dig our own way out of the pit of despair.   

          Like us, Job had friends. And Job found, as we sometimes do, that his friends were not much help. Most of us have heard the empty platitudes of friends who meant well but whose words failed to assuage our pain. Their shallow understanding felt more like condemnation even though we realized they were trying to help us.

Sometimes our friends make matters worse by admonishing us not to feel the way we feel. The friends who make a difference are those who affirm us in our pain. And somehow they 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 was someone who could inspire him to hope again. And that is really what we all need when we are down. Like Job we need a friend who will crawl down into our hole with us and convince us there has got to be “another morning,” and a brighter day.

Job’s friend Elihu did something like that for Job, something his other friends could not do. He challenged Job; he caused him to question his assumptions about God. By doing so he helped Job understand that it is the nature of God to be just. So Job recants of having accused God of injustice. Eventually Job finds victory over hopelessness and decides to put his full trust in God no matter what suffering has to be endured.

Can we help our hurting friends as Elihu helped Job? We can if we know what to say when the bottom falls out.  Our counsel need not be brilliant. It may be simple, like this: “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hold on!”

The idea of tying a knot in a rope suggests there is one more thing you can do to help yourself. If you tie a knot in your rope, you can hold on a little longer. You can begin believing that help is on the way. You can learn to trust someone other than yourself.

When we are in trouble we want God to rescue us immediately. He seldom does. There are lessons he wants us to learn. We learn those lessons more through suffering than through pleasure. So God often waits, giving us a chance to study in the School of Hard Knocks. We learn what Isaiah meant by “waiting on the Lord.”

In the midst of suffering, if we are fortunate, we learn to trust God’s timetable. God does not always settle up on Saturday night. But he does have a plan. He does have a pay day.

Take the cross on which Jesus died for example. The Roman soldiers on that fateful day looked at Jesus hanging on that cross, bleeding and dying. They thought that was the end of him. But they were wrong!  They had no way of knowing that God would turn that cross into a symbol of his love for the whole world.

When all seems hopeless, and you have reached the end of your rope, find a way to tie a knot in that rope and hold on a little longer.  Believe that help is on the way. Refuse to give up until help arrives. Then you may realize that your Maker will use your heartaches, all your suffering, to make you a better person. And like Job you may become an example to other strugglers.

Your fortitude in the face of despair could inspire someone else to tie a knot in his rope and hold on. And that would make your life worth living, in spite of the pain. + + +