We long to know what to do in our hour of trial, when dreams have faded and hope is limp. What then? When children have disappointed or a love has grown cold. What then? When health is gone, taking with it the joy of living. What then? Either at one of these points or at some other point, countless people must make their decision as to what they will do, how they will carry it off when the pilgrimage of life moves from an even path to a rocky road beneath leaden skies and amidst gloomy surroundings. In disappointment’s valley, along heartbreak highway, what cry shall we raise?
I want this day to tell you of a man’s prayer when life had soured and fouled on him. Esau was a simple, trusting man. He was not at home in the intrigue of drawing rooms or the refined scheming of conference rooms. The Scriptures indicate that he was a man of the outdoors, most at home in the solitude of the forest, stalking his game, exercising his skill beneath the silent skies. As the elder son in Isaac’s home, he took for granted that the family holdings would be put in his hands, and simple, honest man that he was, I am sure he would have discharged his trust with fidelity and evenhanded justice. The old familiar account indicates, however, that Esau’s mother favored the other child, less physically strong, smooth of skin, gracious in his wiles and charm—Jacob. By the deception of having Jacob, the younger favored son, imitate Esau, the older and less favored son, this mother gained the blessing of Isaac for Jacob. Esau appeared later before his father to receive his rightful blessing. Isaac was dumbfounded, for he had thought Jacob was Esau. His last will and testament, so to speak, had been drawn and executed. He could not recall the act, unwise though he knew it to be. Esau was left out in the cold, so to speak. His rightful inheritance had fallen to another. Out of nowhere, it seemed, Esau’s disappointment came, hard and bitter. He should have been the son-in-charge by tribal custom. Now he was left at the mercy of a less honest and less worthy brother. Life had tumbled in for Esau.
For all of us, life does tumble in over and over again. No man, no woman, gets through the living of these years without walking at some time or the other a lonely, deserted way. Life is filled with these interludes of disappointment and sorrow. An acquaintance by a lake one summer reminded me of what a wise man of letters said: “Life is a series of partings.” So true! We part from scenes of childhood, from our family roots, from our first friends. Our families are, one by one, parted from us by death. Those we love are parted from us by the demands of life, the call of jobs, the call of the nation. This is life. We plan, and our plans do not work as we hoped they would. Every man, every woman, has disappointments. I have yet to see the human being for whom all plans work on schedule and according to one’s wishes. Children disappoint, jobs turn out to be less than we expected, illness comes, misunderstandings rise, friends betray, we fall short of our goals for ourselves.