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11th October: Take off the Rose-Coloured Spectacles

I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my mind to see and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. Ecclesiastes 1:12-13

Doctors, whether young or old, should read the book of Ecclesiastes, the words of the Preacher, provided they read it perceptively. It is a book about life as it is. Some see it as being essentially synical, but that misses the point. Many parts of it do sound cynical if taken on their own. They are still not to be denied. And again and again the Preacher's mind comes back to God. For all the vanity of life, which he sees with stark realism, his mind is never far from knowing that God is still there -- the God who is wisdom and love and power, who knows what he is about, and who knows what life is about when we do not.

Medicine all too often sees the raw side of life, whether in the patient's personal experience or in the world in which people live and with which they have to cope. It may be very real in the doctor's own personal experience (though his patients might be surprised if they knew). It does not help at all to pretend that life is not like that, though of course it can be just the opposite. Indeed, if Solomon really wrote both Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs, he knew something of both sides of life.

However, come what may, we, like the Preacher, know that God is still there. And we can, like the Preacher, safely take off our rose-coloured spectacles. Moreover, we in our day know something that the Preacher did not know. We know the magnificent reality of a God who has shared our human life, who has drunk its bitterness to the dregs and who has triumphed over it. We know a God who really understands and who fully warrants our trust.

Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than he went through before;
He that unto God's kingdom comes
Must enter by that door.

Richard Baxter

Further reading: Ec 1:12-18. Heb 2:14-18, 4:14-16.


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