“I was stuck.”
And it wasn’t in the mud. Mine was a situation I’d never encountered as a pastor and I’d no earthly nor heavenly idea how to make a move in it. It would be fair to say I was paralyzed by not even being able to wrap my head around the next step—and which direction that would be.
But I remembered a professor of mine whose class I’d just taken. We’d connected because of a few common interests so I took the chance and reached out to him for counsel. He not only was willing to offer me advice and support, he was excited to do so.
Thus, began a very rewarding process for me of gleaning of his decades of pastoral experience. Suddenly, I wasn’t stuck anymore. His wisdom became my wisdom. His experience became mine.
Have you someone like that in your life? Is there someone whose very perception and “look” tells you they are a valuable person in your life? In today’s passage, Ecclesiastes 8:1, King Solomon reflects a bit on those types of people and in doing so offers us a challenge to become them.
Who is like the wise? Who knows the explanation of things?
A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance.
Ecclesiastes 8:1, NIV
This proverb, tucked as an introduction to this next section, proclaims that which we observe daily: wisdom (or a lack of it!) shows even on a person’s face. Think about that when you look in the mirror!
The “hard appearance” Solomon mentions probably refers to obstinate arrogance: the tight-lipped, squinty-eyed, excessive overconfidence someone lacking wisdom shows in their ignorance of a subject for which they are self-assured they have mastered. We’ve all seen it; if we’re honest, we’ve been “that person” too.
In a similar facial expression, wisdom can also make you gloomy. If we focus on wise assessments of situations, we may find ourselves with such a pessimistic outlook on life we’d be depressed. For example, one might say, “Our incomes are higher today than ever before.” A wise person interjects, “Because the dollar is weaker than ever before.” Wise? Yes. But potentially depressing.
Solomon won’t let us think wisdom leads us to a depressed, fatalist view of life. Wisdom can brighten the appearance because of what it bestows. If “the fear of the Lord is beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7a), then someone who is wise recognizes God’s sovereignty over all of creation and finds assurance in His wisdom and power.
Likewise, someone who is wise is always aware that knowledge and wisdom can be gained from a great many of interactions and encounters. The softness and attentiveness on their face demonstrate respect for others around them and a curiosity that is difficult to mask. They are always learning, always asking, always curious. In many ways, wise people keep a childlike wonder about the world and life.
When things are bad in life, it is not to the fool we turn our attention. It is the wise. We turn to those who can offer the “explanation of things”. We rest in the experience these sages have acquired by walking through life but also by observing the nature of life.
So who is like the wise? No one else. Having someone with wisdom in your life is such a phenomenal blessing. I would venture to say it is an untapped resource in our lives.
This dear brother in Christ and ministry who helped me might not ever know how much I value him. Certainly, I’ve told him, but words seem inadequate.
May we all seek to grow in wisdom so that we may be (and become) the blessing of bright, calming, and pleasant encouragement to those around us. And as we grow in that wisdom, may we see those possessing this wisdom all around us and not only make use of their wisdom, but show true gratitude for the value they bring to our lives.