By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
You can't know good — until you know bad
bressler color
Rev. John Bressler

After my four-year stint in the Navy, I enrolled at Marshall U. because I knew my future could be a brand new world if I could earn a degree from that prestigious school, known as West Virginia's University of Oxford. Well, that's what we called it. Anyway, I picked engineering because I always wanted to drive a train. My biggest difficulty was Marshall's testing policy: students must pass every exam. The final had only one question. An object is dropped from a building and takes two seconds to hit the ground. "What is the distance using the formula s = 1/2gt squared?" My answer was spot on. "From the top of the building to the ground." My professor did not give me a grade, but wrote on my test paper, "Try the Business Department." I would never have guessed that was the answer, and I never figured out why he shredded my exam.

Fortunately for me, I discovered English and that I am right-brained. I also worked part-time in the morning for J.C. Penney and went to school in the afternoon and discovered that I might make a pretty fair retailer. I studied and was given permission to design my own final exam. I came up with a neat two-hour sock-puppet show. Not a word was said as I took several bows, put the socks back on my feet and strolled confidently out the door knowing I had aced the courses. I graduated "Something Come Loud" and didn't even have to attend the ceremony for handing out the diplomas. They mailed me mine.

In the wonderful book of Proverbs, Sophia — or Wisdom, if you like — cries out to those who pass by, "How long will you love being simple and how long will you hate knowledge?"

The amazing thing about Proverbs is that her words are not difficult, the teaching is apparent and the wisdom is more home-spun than professional. All wisdom begins with Proverbs 1:7, "The reverent awareness, trust and obedience (my translation) towards God is the beginning of all knowledge..."

Jesus puts it so perfectly. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

Learning what I need for my profession in life, acquiring enough wisdom to live in my world and recognizing that I just cannot learn everything is a never-ending reality. As soon as I believed I knew something, new information came along and I was forced to admit I needed to change and can never assume. We know what assume means, don't we?

In this complex, competitive and challenging world in which we live, it takes a power so much greater than ourselves in order to make sense of the purpose of why we are here. Is existence no more than the acquisition of information, making a living, retiring and sitting on a porch to watch cars go by, resting in a nursing home while waiting for visitors to occasionally come by, listening to the footsteps of caregivers and waiting for the inevitable? I don't think so!

Oh, God, I know my strengths and weaknesses, my hopes and dreams, my achievements and my failures and you have given me a lifetime to thank you for my wife and children, my opportunities and my future. Perhaps I have learned and understand Proverbs 4:7, "The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom!"

How can we know what is good until we have been faced with the bad? How can we know the sweet without the sour, peace without strife, success without struggle or achievement without disappointment?

This I can understand, but will never completely comprehend. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should have everlasting life. ... God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved."

I am very glad that I do not have to solve this equation. I merely have to accept it. That I can do, thanks to God.

Thanks, God!

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter