Choosing Life in Suffering

cryingfaceOne of life’s great questions centres not on what happens to us, but how we will live in and through whatever happens.  We cannot change most circumstances in our lives.  I am white, middle class, and I have a good education.  I have not always made conscious decisions about these things.

Very little of what I have lived, in fact, has to do with what I have decided – whom I have known, where I came into the world, what personality tendencies have taken hold.

Our choice, then, often revolves around not what has happened or will happen to us, but how we will relate to life’s turns and circumstances.  Put another way:  Will I relate to my life resentfully or gratefully?

Think of this example:  You and I have crashed into one another on the road.  For me it might create not only serious injury, but also bitter resentfulness.  I may drag through life, saying, “The accident changed everything.  Now I am broken and life is hard.”  You may suffer the same hardship, but say, “Might this moment serve as a call to another way of life?  Might it be an opportunity to master something new, a chance to make my brokenness serve as a witness to others?”

The losses may be non-negotiable.  But we have a choice:  How do we live these losses?  We are called time and again to discover God’s Spirit at work within our lives, within us, amid even the dark moments.  We are invited to choose life.  A key in understanding suffering has to do with our not rebelling at the inconveniences and pains life presents to us.

 

Henri Nouwen, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, p.12-13

Christian Leadership

Nouwen bookI have just finished reading a gem of a book I received yesterday (81 pages of large print).  Henri Nouwen In the Name of Jesus, reflects on Christian leadership as he considers his transition from academic teaching to serving with mentally disabled adults.  Here’s a snippet towards the end:

“The task of future Christian leaders is not to make a little contribution to the solution of the pains and tribulations of their time, but to identify and announce the ways in which Jesus is leading God’s people out of slavery, through the desert to a new land of freedom.

Christian leaders have the arduous task of responding to personal struggles, family conflicts, national calamities, and international tensions with an articulate faith in God’s real presence.

They have to say “no” to every form of fatalism, defeatism, accidentalism or incidentalism which make people believe that statistics are telling us the truth.  They have to say no to every form of despair in which human life is seen as a pure matter of good or bad luck.

They have to say “no” to sentimental attempts to make people develop a spirit of resignation or stoic indifference in the face of the unavoidability of pain, suffering and death.

In short, they have to say “no” to the secular world and proclaim in unambiguous terms that the incarnation of God’s Word, through whom all things came into being, has made even the smallest event of human history into Kairos, that is, an opportunity to be led deeper into the heart of Christ.

The Christian leaders of the future have to be theologians (he has previously written about the utter importance of truly knowing God’s love and of contemplative prayer), persons who know the heart of God and are trained – through prayer, study, and careful analysis – to manifest the divine event of God’s saving work in the midst of the many seemingly random events of their time….

….This is a hard discipline, since God’s presence is often a hidden presence, a presence that needs to be discovered.  The loud boisterous noises of the world make us deaf to the soft, gentle, and loving voice of God.  A Christian leader is called to help people to hear that voice and so be comforted and consoled”  (p.67-69)

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