Sometimes I have trouble feeling God’s presence in my life. There are painful, difficult periods that our Jesuit founder Ignatius Loyola sometimes referred to as “desolation.” This understanding of the cycle, or mood-swings, of the human heart is not a novel idea. It’s part of the ancient wisdom we Jesuits call “the Ignatian way.” One important factor in this kind of deep reflection is the significance of memory, including painful memory. In such dark times I remember that God is present even when I have no evidence of his presence. Holding the memory before me, I know that even within the painful moment there is a promise of future consolation and meaning.Read More Post a comment (0)
The day chronic pain entered my life has now taken an unwelcome and unwanted place in my memory alongside happiest day: my wedding day, and the birthdays of my children. The 24 hours before it came would be the last pain-free day of my (basically) comfortable 45 years and the beginning of a new life for me. A violent trespasser, its tortuous presence inhabiting my body, would always accompany my day-to-day experience from then on. I’ve come to call this presence, simply “the pain,” which began witha literal thorn in my flesh.Read More Post a comment (0)
François Fénelon was a 17th century French Catholic priest who wrote and taught what has been termed “Semi-Quietism,” a modified and less radical version of the original Quietism movement. Yet he, along with his friend Madame Guyon, stirred up significant theological controversy by promoting their unorthodox views. Fénelon’s theological position eventually cost him much personally. He was a man who grew to understand suffering, for he experienced a tremendous amount of loss and pain in his life, partly as a result of choices that he himself made.Read More Post a comment (0)
The first time real pain comes into our lives in such a way that it challenges our strong, well-articulated faith structures, it’s quite traumatic for the responsible Christian—in large part because it is so unexpected. Up to this point in the spiritual life, we have felt somewhat in control and certain of so many things—our doctrines and theological positions, our understanding of God and where God may be found, our sense of ourselves and our place in the world, our feelings of being in control of our own destiny and, to some extent, the world around us.Read More Post a comment (0)
Many well-meaning evangelists have “softened” the gospel demand “to pick up your cross and follow Me” for the gospel of personal well-being. Or is its source the Bible? Theophylact, the 11th century archbishop of Ohrid (modern day Bulgaria), suggests that even members of early Christian communities believed that life for the faithful, based on their reading of the Hebrew Scriptures, should be prosperous and secure:
“Many Christians found afflictions hard to bear because they had read in the law that a prosperous and secure life was promised to those who serve God. Peter therefore approaches the subject by telling them that they are greatly beloved. He then goes on to warn them not to be surprised at their sufferings, which come to them as tests from God.”Read More Post a comment (0)
In A World of Pain… What Good Is God?
An Interview with Philip Yancey
This is an interview with Yancey that grapples with theodicy issues as they are dealt with in his new book, What Good Is God? Yancey was in a recent car accident where he almost died and as he recovered three questions presented themselves as follows: 1) Who do I love? 2) What have I done with my life? and 3) Am I ready for whatever is next? These questions have been pivotal since the accident; Yancey surmises that pain is like a hearing aid that helps us tune into what truly matters. In fact, research shows that painful times are the times that foster spiritual formation the most. Psychological or spiritual pain helps us “tune in” to something that needs changing—as does physical pain. The pain is not just there to make us feel bad. When we experience pain we should seek counsel about it so that we can become redirected.
Part of the process of working through our pain is praying through pain. This is a process in which we should not hold back. Honesty and raw emotion are necessary as is shown in scripture (Job, Lamentations, Psalms, Jesus weeping, etc). There is also a deep need for community during difficult times. Yancey suggests a sign for all painful experiences: DANGER! Do not experience alone! Studies have shown that those in community with one another during difficult times heal faster than those in isolation.Read More Post a comment (1)
If you’ve been a subscriber to Conversations for any length of time, you’re familiar with our feature writer, Kim Engelmann. In each issue of the journal, Kim takes us deeper into the conversation with her thoughtfully crafted “Conversation Guide”—turning each issue into an individual or small group study. She has become a dear friend of Conversations, and her column a favorite among readers. We are so grateful for her gift of summary and synthesis—and probing questions that make us really think about what we are reading and how we might apply it to our own lives. Recently I sat down with Kim to talk about her latest book, and her thoughts on the role of spiritual formation within the context of community.Read More Post a comment (0)
If you were to ask a room full of people, as I often have, what instigated the greatest level of transformation in their lives so far, the number one answer is always the same: pain. It comes under varying names, of course: “my divorce,” “my illness,” “losing my job,” “finally hitting rock bottom.” Many different ways of saying the same thing: pain.Read More Post a comment (0)
If you are anything like me, the news of the earthquake and tsunami that recently devastated the nation of Japan, crept into your awareness gradually. Even if you heard the news right away, it wasn’t until you started seeing the pictures, the video, the coverage that the enormity of this event truly hit you emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Images have an impact on our souls, communicating truth – and suffering – in ways that a thousands of words cannot.Read More Post a comment (0)
What an embarrassment, the body. With all the belching, oozing, pain, and decay, it’s no surprise St. Francis called it “Brother Ass.” And with its unceasing attraction to bacon, beer, and other bodies, it’s enough to make you wonder: What was God thinking?Read More Post a comment (0)