The Sunset Is Still Beautiful |


Most of us are familiar with the story of Job in the Bible. It still stands as the best theodicy ever written. It still causes us to question and ponder the suffering in the world. It reminds us that there are things in the world, and beyond, that we cannot fathom — much less understand. Job’s friends insisting that he is guilty of something and Job maintaining his innocence of him.

Job screams his innocence to God in his closing argument, “Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark! Let the almighty answer me! If only I had my adversary’s written indication!” (Job 31:35). In the poem, God finally speaks,

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements — surely you know!

Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

Or who laid its cornerstone,

When the morning stars sang together,

And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors,

When it burst forth from the womb;

When I made clouds its garment,

And thick darkness its swaddling band,

And prescribed bounds for it,

And set bars and doors,

And said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

And here shall your proud waves be stayed’? (Job 38:4-11, RSV)

These are the opening stanzas of one of the most humbling poems ever recorded. What follows is a litany of things that are (accounting for the ancient imagery) still beyond us. They cover astronomy, geology, zoology, and meteorology. They are reminders for us today that the universe is an impossibly complex and wondrous place. We may be able to crash an object into an asteroid orbiting another asteroid, but there are still depths of the sea that we do not yet understand. We still do not fully understand our own behavior.

It is astounding to me that while I am considering what I might eat for dinner there is a tiny fish off the coast of Mauritius doing what nature intended for it to do. While I am sleeping at night, there is a galaxy that no one has yet looked at spinning and swirling just as it has since the beginning. (Is there a being in that galaxy wondering the same things that we are?)

Pondering those things beyond us pulls us ever forward in our understanding of ourselves, the earth, and the universe. It also keeps us humble if we take it seriously. Whether one believes God created it all or not, it still humbles us.

As a believer, it gives me great comfort to know that the universe does not depend upon me. In fact, the grass that I mow during the summer doesn’t depend on me either. What does depend upon me is how I treat my fellow travelers.

Jesus said as much in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

The sunrise, the seasons, the beauty of the earth are all reminders of the faithfulness of God. There are those in this world that would have us focus on fear, division, and ridicule of political opponents. There are those that make a living by making our world smaller and obscuring the horizon with logical fallacies that many confuse with being clever and out-thinking others. Do we not know how ridiculous is sounds to make claims of destruction or salvation when we don’t even fully understand how our own bodies work?

It is worth taking time to notice those things that are beautiful over which we have no control. Life moves at such a pace for many that we don’t take time to do it. It is a good discipline to build into one’s week. In the meantime, it is good to know that the rivers still run over the cliffs and rocks, the fish still swim, the earthworms and grubs still take care of the soil, the oceans still nourish the earth.

The sunset is still beautiful, whether we see it or not. It does not care if we notice, but we fail to see it at our own loss.

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