Posted by: Dan | March 12, 2006

Sure of God

“Paul's 'we do not know how to pray as we ought' has probably never been as relevant as it is today… The images of the world which in former times spoke of God have become obscure ciphers and riddles, the words of scripture have been whittled away by rationalistic skeptics, human hearts have been so crushed and trampled on in this age of the robot that they are no longer sure that contemplation is possible. Prayer finds them basically full of doubt, insecurity and despair; they creep along close to the ground and dare not stand upright. They feel drawn to every negative act; ready not only to doubt God but also to resist him, perhaps even to hate him for letting the world carry on as it does, for being so high and aloof, above the need to intervene. For he is so sure of himself that he can expose his children to fear and darkness in this vast, unbounded universe, giving them no hope but nothingness, no consolation but the certainty of death… Nowadays the temptation to say No, to yield to weariness, is very strong.”
~ Hans Urs von Balthasar, Prayer

“Thus, while for the short time we wander away from God, Christ stands in our midst to lead us little by little to a firm union with God.”
~ John Calvin, Institutes

Yes, the temptation to grow weary and say No is very strong. I suppose I have been drawn to 'every negative act', but, in my own defense, I was drawn there because of my love for the people surrounded by those actions. When one journeys with those on the margins of society such acts are inescapable. And, being surrounded by such things day after day — such things as rape, torture, murder, suicide, oppression, and sickness — I have doubted God, I have resisted God, and, although I have never hated God, I have often raged against him. I have crept along close to the ground, not daring to stand upright, for I have tried that once before, and was only beaten back down again. Sometimes it has been all I could do to just creep forward; it was all I could do to not stand still, to not turn around, to not collapse under it all.

And yet…

And yet Balthasar tells us that, somehow, God is so sure of himself that he can expose his beloved ones to fear and darkness, nothingness and death. I cannot help but pause at the thought of something so terrible and yet so comforting. Perhaps we need to learn to stand knowing that our beloved will not escape the darkness. Perhaps we need to learn to surrender our beloved ones to nothingness and death. Instead of constantly trying to draw others back from suffering, from sorrow, and from sickness, maybe we need to learn to confidently walk with them into suffering, into sorrow, and into sickness. We must learn to be sure of God in the same way that God is sure of himself. I wonder how that would change things. Perhaps then we would not bring a message that proclaims, “Hold on, God will come to save you” but rather will proclaim, “God is already here with you. In this hell Christ is beside you and he has already saved you.” I don't know. What I do know is that, when we are sure of God as he is sure of himself, we will then know how to intercede for those who are scattered, and slaughtered, like sheep without a shepherd.

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