Sunday, October 19, 2008

Brother Lawrence on Suffering II

The opening line of this letter reminds of the words said by the blind Carthusian monk in the film Into Great Silence:

And because He is an infinitely good being, He eternally seeks our well-being. Therefore, there is no cause for worry in any of the things which happen to us. I often thank God that he let me be blinded. I am sure he let this happen for the good of my soul...God is infinitely good, and that all of his actions are in our best interest. Because of this a Christian should always be happy, never unhappy. Because everything that happens is God's will, and it only happens for the well-being of our soul.

Here is the opening paragraph of Brother Lawrence's letter of February 6, 1691

God indeed knows what we need, and everything he does is for our good. If we knew how much he loves us, we would readily accept the bitter with the sweet, and even the most painful and difficult things would be pleasant and agreeable. The most painful sufferings do not ordinarily seem unbearable unless we look at them from the wrong perspective. Furthermore, when we are convinced that it is the hand of God at work in us--that he is a Father full of love who allows us to endure humiliation, pain, and suffering--all the bitterness is taken away, and only the sweetness remains.

I like how he writes about looking at painful sufferings from the wrong perspective. That's what we do all the time.

2 comments:

Scott Lyons said...

Dan, here's an Orthodox prayer I recently came across. I thought you might be interested especially in the final paragraph"

The Prayer of the Optina Elders

Grant unto me, O Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring. Grant unto me to dedicate myself completely to Thy Holy Will.

For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things. Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will.

Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When things unforeseen occur, let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee.

Teach me to behave sincerely and rationally toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none. Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day, and to bear my part in all its passing events.

Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.

Amen


My italics, of course. But it's been banging around in my head for a few weeks. It reminds me of Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons where More and Richard Rich (?) are arguing about whether a man can be bought. Rich brings up suffering. More responds contemplatively with "bought by suffering?" Then Rich clarifies by saying be bought by the fear of suffering, and More is disappointed. "I thought you were being profound for a moment" - or something like it.

Dan said...

Hi Scott,

Thanks for the prayer. It's definitely apropos. It does seem that this sort of wisdom is folly to the world. I happened to stumble upon an absurd website through a FB friend called whywontgodhealamputees.com

It's all essentially about suffering, and why bad things happen to good people, etc. They simply don't get it, nor do they understand that a God who used a humble carpenter from a backwater town in Nazareth to save the world might have a different view of suffering than most humans.