He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
– Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1. 177
Yoda, Gandalf, Rafiki, Dumbeldore, Morpheus, Professor X are among some of the greatest and wisest of characters throughout fictional cinematic history. We immediately gravitate towards these characters because they guide the hero (us) along the path, without them, there would be no happy ending. We love them because each one of us craves to either have someone like that in our lives or because we wish we were like that ourselves. How great would it be to be as wise as these characters? Even within our own history, we envy those who have gone before who seemed glimpse into the world a little then ourselves. Buddha, Muhammed, The Dhali Lama, The Pope, Jesus Himself. Each one (whether you’re religious or not) a guru and a sage in their own right. Each one has changed the course of history and that of their people in profound ways we’re only still beginning to comprehend. If only we had just a slice of their wisdom and insight into the world, maybe we’d have inner peace, perhaps we’d have it all together like they did. Maybe.
Unfortunately, wisdom has a high price. Nothing in this world is free, and wisdom is no exception to this rule. Whether it was fighting a Balrog, fighting in the clone wars and being overthrown by the Sith or being on the constant lookout for the One, Yoda, Gandalf, Rafiki, Dumbeldore, Morpheus, Professor X all went through their own trials to gain the wisdom and knowledge they had. Gautama (the actual name for the Buddha) had to observe and experience suffering before realising it had to be overcome and thus becoming enlightened. Even the Dhali Lama, how many lives (it’s a Hindu thing) has he gone through to accumulate the wisdom he aims to share with the world? Then there’s Jesus Christ Himself the Son of God, the greatest of them all, yet even He suffered and died so that His saving Gospel could go forth into every nation, tribe and tongue. Wisdom comes at a high cost, and it is pain, trials and tribulation.
Not only does it take pain and trials to acquire wisdom, but it takes a vast amount of time to accumulate it. There’s a reason why age is associated with wisdom. It is because those who are older have gone through the pain, they’ve experienced the vanity of this world and grasp what it is that makes the world tick. This is tied to their experiences. No amount of sitting under a tree or inspirational mountain hikes or #worshipsessions will give you wisdom, it’s something God teaches you as you walk gradually through the highs and lows of life. But it does begin with God (Prov 2:6), and as the Spirit carries you along the rough seas of life, you must always keep in mind that each vouge is a lesson that the Master has to bestow to you. We must have ears to hear and eyes to see and open hearts to receive.
The Epistle of James is a timely piece to read and meditate on. The main theological theme of James is wisdom and faith during trials and tribulations. James encourages us to ask God for wisdom. For He will give it liberally without hesitation (James 1:5). That the sort of wisdom God gives is “pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). That these good fruits are produced through patience and a lifetime of learning through trials (James 5:7-12).
For me, I am learning to embrace and cherish each moment that is painful and hard (and there’s been a few of them lately) as I try to remember that God is working this out for my good (Romans 8:28), that He is sovereign over history which includes my life (Genesis 5:20; Psalm 115:3; Proverbs 16:9), and that out of He will conform me to the likeness of His Son Jesus (Romans 8:29) who is wise beyond measure (Colossians 2:3).
“Time, as it grows old, teaches all things.”