My husband wrote an interesting take on this with his post ‘Does God Play Dice.’
I think I have always (somehow) understood that loving Christ requires sacrifice and that there is a deeper learning to be had in the sacrifice. There are paradoxes within paradoxes, it seems to me. St. John of the Cross talks about those of us who are (for whatever reason) weaker needing consolations. It took me a while to figure out what ‘consolations’ are, never having come across the term before two years ago. It is so different to the charismatic/evangelical protestantism of my adulthood, or the wishy-washy, wet-weekend in Portsmouth, middle-class Jesus of the non-conformist churches I grew up in (no offence to Portsmouth). Indeed, the main criticism of the charismatic/evangelical church of my adulthood could be that it focuses too much on ‘consolations’. I am not criticising; as Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe point out in Longing for God, every movement has its flaws. It is wise for us to be aware of them, lest we be deceived into thinking ours is the only ‘right’ way, or that ours is always the ‘best’ way. Everything begins with humility, as Teresa of Avila is so fond of saying.
Maybe people desire consolations because, as Pascal said, human beings operate, spiritually, on different ‘levels’ (I think it was Pascal, it may not have been). It’s all the way through the Interior Castle, too. I know Teresa of Avila wrote to address the needs of her Sisters (she says so in her introduction), and proclaims herself weak, but she does talk often about consolations.
The reality of suffering can make the strongest of us buckle and long for God’s touch with a yearning beyond anything else we will ever know. Suffering can, and does, bring everything into stark, sharp focus. Some of us experience suffering, and darkness, in order to learn the glory of the light. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and I would hate for someone to be put off God because they’re miserable and think they’re not ‘good enough’. The reality is that none of us are good enough. None of us deserve the consolations that God does give. This isn’t criticism of the post below. Just thoughts. It is a very thought-provoking post, as usual from Contemplative in the Mud. What a blessing!
In conclusion, God is always good, even when life is not, and as Ann Voskamp says, all is grace. Now here’s the original post:
When I was first starting to take Christianity seriously, I read George Macdonald. (He is a Scottish-Protestant writer of sermons and various fantasy stories. You may have heard of him if you’re a C. S. Lewis fan, for C. S. Lewis thought very highly of him.) I liked his books very much. They were some of my first introductions to what Christianity actually looks like, and although I’m obviously not a Protestant, I learned a lot from him.
For one thing, I’ve always taken it for granted that what he said about the purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth is true (I’m paraphrasing): Jesus didn’t come to do everything and then leave us happy but unchanged; he came to make us like him.
And this Jesus died on the Cross. He died to everything and all: physically and also in the deeper things, for his friends abandoned him and…
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