The Acts of The Holy Spirit Through –

Conflict in Acts (Acts 22: 30-23:11)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

            The fact is that we find on the world scale the same thing that so profoundly moves me, as a doctor, in all those who come to me for help. As we have clearly seen, suffering in never beneficial in itself, and must always be fought against. What counts is the way a person reacts in face of suffering. That is the real test of the person: what is our personal attitude to life and its changes and chances. Here is a man, sick or in the grip of some tragedy, who confides in me: what is he going to make of the grievous blow that has struck him? What is his personal reaction going to be? A positive, active, creative reaction which will develop his person, or a negative one that will stunt it? As we saw in the case of the orphans, one will go on to play an important part in history; another will be a permanent failure. The right help given at the right moment may determine the course of a whole life.

            It was an over-simplification to make a complete distinction between the willed and fruitful loneliness, and unexpected and tragic loneliness, since the latter can also have richly fruitful consequences. Once more we see that the essential thing is not the event – loneliness – but a person’s attitude in face of the event. Even in the case of Jesus, when he sought to discover the Father’s will in the dark hour in Gethsemane, we can see now that he was not seeking to know if the Father willed his death, but praying that he would accept the death that was coming – which is quite a different matter.

            We are back again with the problem that I have been discussing at length in these pages: whether God wills suffering. I make no apology for that, since it is an important problem, especially for the doctor. I understand only too well my colleague who tells me that he is revolted at the idea of a God who was capable of killing his own son. I am convinced that God wills not death, but life; not disease, but healing, and that he is with us in our fight as doctors against death and disease. He has called us simply because in this fallen world there is disease, suffering, and death, and because the important thing is the way men and women face up to this brutal reality.

            Jesus himself faced it squarely in all those who were weak, crushed, despised. His Beatitudes are all in the future. The least who will be greatest in the Kingdom of God is in the future. He speaks today as if after the event. I have lived all my working life in this paradoxical perspective of the gospel.

           

 

The conclusion, then, of our reflections, is that in our personal lives as well as in those of nations, there is always suffering, tragedy, deprivation – in short, noise. Such things are always an evil that must be fought against: they have no beneficent virtue in themselves. But precisely because we must combat them, because we must react, and also because in them the mesh of old routines is broken, and our usual models of behavior no longer serve, we must turn to our innate creativity. That is what can give a new impulse to our lives, one that is more free, more thoughtful, more original, and more fruitful.

            Of course there can be no certainty that this will happen, and at the moment of trial it is easy to doubt it. But it is possible, and that very possibility can revive our courage and our hope. That is why I am writing: because if your hope and your courage are restored in this perspective of growth through suffering, the probability of such a favorable outcome is increased, and you have the more reason to fight and to hope. There is a snowball effect.

            It is obvious that it is not a matter of certainty, but of probability.

            The Christian hope which inspires me is not a thing, but a person – not that little thing ‘the poor consolation dispensed to humankind’, as the Greeks thought, forgotten at the bottom of Pandora’s box, and so escaping the dispersal of the contents when her curiosity prompted her to open it; nor the grand discovery on the threshold of which Renan believed science to be standing, which would put an end to all uncertainty about the mystery of the universe – no, a person. The person of Jesus, who though he was the Son of the Father, had to feel his way to know the Father’s will, but who is alive, whereas we are all going towards death, and who is awaiting us beyond death, where he told us that he would prepare a place for us.

Paul Tournier, Creative Suffering, p. 37, 52, 137, 140 (1981)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Acts of The Holy Spirit Through –

Conflict in Acts (Acts 22: 30-23:11)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

            The fact is that we find on the world scale the same thing that so profoundly moves me, as a doctor, in all those who come to me for help. As we have clearly seen, suffering in never beneficial in itself, and must always be fought against. What counts is the way a person reacts in face of suffering. That is the real test of the person: what is our personal attitude to life and its changes and chances. Here is a man, sick or in the grip of some tragedy, who confides in me: what is he going to make of the grievous blow that has struck him? What is his personal reaction going to be? A positive, active, creative reaction which will develop his person, or a negative one that will stunt it? As we saw in the case of the orphans, one will go on to play an important part in history; another will be a permanent failure. The right help given at the right moment may determine the course of a whole life.

            It was an over-simplification to make a complete distinction between the willed and fruitful loneliness, and unexpected and tragic loneliness, since the latter can also have richly fruitful consequences. Once more we see that the essential thing is not the event – loneliness – but a person’s attitude in face of the event. Even in the case of Jesus, when he sought to discover the Father’s will in the dark hour in Gethsemane, we can see now that he was not seeking to know if the Father willed his death, but praying that he would accept the death that was coming – which is quite a different matter.

            We are back again with the problem that I have been discussing at length in these pages: whether God wills suffering. I make no apology for that, since it is an important problem, especially for the doctor. I understand only too well my colleague who tells me that he is revolted at the idea of a God who was capable of killing his own son. I am convinced that God wills not death, but life; not disease, but healing, and that he is with us in our fight as doctors against death and disease. He has called us simply because in this fallen world there is disease, suffering, and death, and because the important thing is the way men and women face up to this brutal reality.

            Jesus himself faced it squarely in all those who were weak, crushed, despised. His Beatitudes are all in the future. The least who will be greatest in the Kingdom of God is in the future. He speaks today as if after the event. I have lived all my working life in this paradoxical perspective of the gospel.

           

 

The conclusion, then, of our reflections, is that in our personal lives as well as in those of nations, there is always suffering, tragedy, deprivation – in short, noise. Such things are always an evil that must be fought against: they have no beneficent virtue in themselves. But precisely because we must combat them, because we must react, and also because in them the mesh of old routines is broken, and our usual models of behavior no longer serve, we must turn to our innate creativity. That is what can give a new impulse to our lives, one that is more free, more thoughtful, more original, and more fruitful.

            Of course there can be no certainty that this will happen, and at the moment of trial it is easy to doubt it. But it is possible, and that very possibility can revive our courage and our hope. That is why I am writing: because if your hope and your courage are restored in this perspective of growth through suffering, the probability of such a favorable outcome is increased, and you have the more reason to fight and to hope. There is a snowball effect.

            It is obvious that it is not a matter of certainty, but of probability.

            The Christian hope which inspires me is not a thing, but a person – not that little thing ‘the poor consolation dispensed to humankind’, as the Greeks thought, forgotten at the bottom of Pandora’s box, and so escaping the dispersal of the contents when her curiosity prompted her to open it; nor the grand discovery on the threshold of which Renan believed science to be standing, which would put an end to all uncertainty about the mystery of the universe – no, a person. The person of Jesus, who though he was the Son of the Father, had to feel his way to know the Father’s will, but who is alive, whereas we are all going towards death, and who is awaiting us beyond death, where he told us that he would prepare a place for us.

Image result for jesus in every situationPaul Tournier, Creative Suffering, p. 37, 52, 137, 140 (1981)