DIVINE WILL PT.  V

 

       Nothing can take away the hope and the lessons acquired through God's testing. Every insight attained through hardship in submissive acceptance to divine wisdom by dispelling that which is obstructive to the greatest human benefit has in consequence edifying potency that knows no confines. Thus, it is written: "We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God's approval, and his approval creates hope" (Rom. 5:3-4), and "My brothers, consider yourself fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you made be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James, 1:2-4). It is to human detriment and unfortunateness not to know great trials for without them, human existence becomes a privative existence - the apparent privations being also perfect gifts from God. Isn't it better to be noted for feats of courage, and nobility of purpose even in a confined place? All misfortunes and spiritual struggles provide the clearest assurance of God's special care ("the one God tests he loves!") - His loyal souls being subjected to the most difficult tests of faith in order to ensure their continuous progression into the highest level of perfection. "Man always has before him the spiritual horizon of hope, thanks to the help of divine grace and with the cooperation of human freedom... It is in the saving Cross of Jesus, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, in the Sacraments which flow forth from the pierced side of the Redeemer (cf. Jn.19:24), that believers find the grace and the strength always to keep God's holy law, even amid the greatest of hardships" (The Splendor of Truth). Saint Bonaventure argues that greater perfection is not so much associated with good works since "God stands not in need of our works" (Ps. 15:2), but rather with the manner in which the difficulties are endured for it is written "No evil can happen to a good man," and "When he shall fall he shall not be bruised, for the Lord putteth His Hand under him" (Ps. 36:24). Drexelius too, is compelling in his urging: "Let him patiently and cheerfully submit to and praise God's Permission and Ordinance alike in prosperity and adversity, in losses, injuries, calumnies, reproaches, mockings, and contempt of self; in suffering of body, in pangs of heart, in griefs, in desolation and internal woe, and in affliction of every kind, believing that GOD BOTH WILLS AND IS ABLE TO PROMOTE HIS SALVATION BY ALL THINGS" (Heliotropium, p. 396). While resistance to suffering results in the unfitness or unwillingness to know the fullness of truth and love, endurance in suffering is rewarded by more than it can be ever prayed or hoped for: "To transform hardships into a witness for the truth of a teaching, to transform disgrace into glory for oneself and for the believing congregation, to transform the lost cause into a matter of honor that has all the inspiring force of a witness - is this not like making the cripples walk and the mute speak?!" (Kierkegaard, Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, p.83). In actuality, there is only momentariness in human suffering that can ensure victoriousness that is perpetual: "And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble" (2 Cor. 4:17). Jesus revealed to Saint Catherine of Siena the reason for permitting sufferings: "I never give up trying to make you like me insofar as you are able to respond: I try to create within your soul too, in this, what then took place in my body..." (op.cit., Enduring Grace, p. 113). Again, what better - more beneficial exchange, and more hopeful promises can we possibly have than this? And, is there ever a greater privilege than sharing in the sufferings of Christ?

       Put summarily, and with simplism, all hardships were preordained not only for testing our worth (e.g. Saint Augustine) but also as curative and corrective measures to elevate humanity to the maximal degree of transcendent perfection, and to reveal God's omnibenevolence and omnipotence (e.g., Jesus' response to inquiries why a man was born blind is clear that his blindness was not a punishment for his parents sins but rather "that the works of God might be made manifest in him" John, 9:1-3).

       God is not like an architect, Drexelius explains, who after designing and building a house leaves it; He is always present, attending to every minute detail of His work, and is abiding constantly within the house of His design and His creation, and thus none of us, as Thielicke expressly put it, is traveling "...in a hopeless maze at the mercy of the dark and enigmatic powers of fate, but rather that we are merely fleeting from a Lord who is waiting for us." Although God's governing may seem quite mysterious, it is nonetheless always regulated in accordance with the standards of the most perfect mandate. Regrettably, what is ordinarily detected in divine work, are merely some of the external indications of God's presence, yet, His finished magnificent creations are neither fully known, nor can be ever adequately venerated. The complaints raised to God stem from seeing only the outward part of His designs, and not the other more essential - hidden from our natural eyes part, and hence they are unjust, and inutile, for "...all the affairs of man whether they be adverse or prosperous, are most accurately and exactly inscribed on this Horologe of Divine Providence which cannot be so deceived in even the minutest point as not to cause all things to be directed to the end which is most expedient" (Drexelius). God Himself provides such reassurances unendingly: "Neither will I leave thee till I shall have accomplished all that I have said" (Gen. 28:15). Neither the divine guardianship can be deceived nor divine love can ever deceive. God's fatherly care commanded every moment of our individual and collective lives for our highest good and salvation, and His love can never permit anything to happen which would be inconsistent with that most quintessential objective. Indeed, as Stump reaffirms: "If God is mothering the earth and if its evils are in His hands, then you may be at peace with yourself and your world" (God and the Philosophers, p. 243), suitably comparing the experience of evil (as the Psalmist does - 131:2) to the evil of the temporary weaning of a child from his/her mother.

       Prejudging God is always pointless since "knowing" divineness is dependent upon unconditional commitment to it; it depends on observing divine law (or on the faithfulness to divine promises). That is, standing in a right moral position with God becomes the obligation in achieving the capability of assessing validly anything. The imperfect neither can judge adequately nor appreciate fittingly that which is perfect. "There is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord" (Prov. 21:30). Without having purity of intention or purity of love, there is neither human wisdom nor proper reverence for true wisdom. Firstly, great efforts must be put forth to know the Judge before appropriateness of His judgments can be grasped. Hence, Saint Paul is explicit in his admonition: "Therefore judge not before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1 Cor. 4:5).

      

Christian Works by Dorothy Kardas, Psy.D. Th.D. 

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