Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Major Faith Struggle: Part 2

Thanks to those who commented on my previous post. I found aid in much of the discussion. I thought I would share with you a series of email exchanges that I had with a spiritual mentor when I shared my post with him. I hope you find it as beneficial as I did.
Tony: shared my Faith Struggle post.

Mentor: There is a powerful scene in Elie Wiesel's book Night, which describes his experiences in the Holocaust, in which a beautiful, dear-hearted young boy is hanged, between two older men. As Wiesel stands in the ranks with the other prisoners, all of whom who had been assembled to watch the executions, Wiesel hears a man behind him muttering, "where is God now?" Wiesel says to himself: "He is there, on those gallows." And then, as I recall it, Wiesel says that his faith in the justice of God died with that child. But it is Wiesel's remark that I think is the clue to the meaning of Jesus' execution: God was indeed there on those gallows. God is not removed from the suffering of children, the suffering of the innocent. God is crucified afresh in their suffering. It is one of the most fundamental meanings of Jesus' cross. Peace.

Tony: I am very familiar with the book and that passage. I remember when I first read that part of the book. I was sitting on the balcony of a lodge room around 6:00a at Fall Creek Falls, overlooking the lake as the sun rose, a very stark contrast to the scene in the book, complete peace surrounding me. I read that passage, dropped the book, and cried for several minutes. I just cried.

I agree with you that Christ is crucified anew. That is another hard issue for me. Was not once enough? It hurts me just as much knowing that Christ dies continually due to man's evilness.

I know what I am really struggling with is endurance in dealing with the suffering and evil of this world, and there are some triggers that are far worst for me than other things. I just cannot get the visions of what these children go through out of my heart and my head. And I don't want to ever rid myself of the realization, but the pain is so bad. I cannot imagine how those who are close to a child who has suffered like this feel? I don't think I could bear it if it were my child or a child I was close too. God has had mercy on me.

Yesterday I spent some time contemplating all my emotions and thoughts and listening to God. I have begun to suspect that God is leading me somewhere on this, calling me to something. I don't what it is. Please pray for me on these issues.

Mentor: Blessings on you, Tony.

I think too that such moments can be guiding moments to which we should pay attention.

In my own experience, I have also found that there are certain situations/scenarios/news that I must simply ignore: because contemplating the graphic nature of the horror leads to depression, which means I am even less available to be of service to people around me. So sometimes I simply choose not to read certain stories, etc., and sometimes, even to fast from "the news." "The news" is never new: it is just a continuing account of all the Fallen World. I choose in those times to focus instead on concrete ways I can be of service to the people and community around me. It doesn't seem that our constitution was created to handle the glut of horrors that can be downloaded onto our psyches through mass media; so I've decided I don't have to try to handle that...Peace.

Tony: Excellent advice. I usually do fast from such items, but sometimes I give in and read the details. Maybe those periodic delvings are at God's direction. Thanks so much for the thoughts, they do help.

Peace and Christ's love to you.

"Do not be deceived. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer understanding but still desiring to do our enemy's will, looks around upon a universe from which every trace of God seems to have vanished, asks why he has been forsaken, yet still obeys God." – Sr. Devil Screwtape in letter to subordinate devil Wormword. The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis.


JMG said...

I didn't want to say this the other day, but I did not read the news stories that you linked to, mainly because I did not want those mental images. I think that if I didn't limit my exposure to such things, I would be a mess. Jesus bore the pain of this cruel world so that I don't have to. I just have to have faith that justice is coming, and in the meantime, I have to do what I can to spread peach and joy.

JMG said...

Um, that should be "peace" and joy.

Tony Arnold said...

Good. Because I don't like peaches. But I will take all the peace you can pray me.

JMG said...

Anyone who doesn't like peaches needs all the prayers he can get.

jettybetty said...

If we had lived 200 years ago, we would have likely known what was happening around us--and little else in the world at large. Is information a blessing? I like what your mentor says--some things I cannot handle and be what God wants me to be.

Aren't spiritual mentors a true blessing??

JMG said...

You make a really good point, JB. Even though I like to be informed about what's going on in the world, it is of little use to worry about it because I can't do anything about it. I can only try to be a good influence in my own circle of existence.

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

I think it is a struggle for any thoughtful ... and FAITHFUL person. It is one that is reflected frequently in Scripture if we have eyes to see.

One of the greatest of texts is Psalm 88. Here is pathos indeed. I interacted with Ps 88 and Night in a blog right before Christmas called "Dark Night of the Soul." I think you might find it interesting. Let me know if you read it. I would appreciate your thoughtful opinion.

Bobby Valentine

Tony Arnold said...

Thanks Bobby. I remember reading your post but felt inadequate to comment at the time. I will revisit it.


Anonymous said...

Can't do anything about it? The ONE campaign? Look at what one fired up rock star is doing. C'mon! Allow the injustice and the rage you feel against it motiviate you to ACT. If God is active in suffering it is through the actions of his people delivering his justice in this world.

JMG said...

Sure, I can contribute to all the worthy causes out there, but poverty and injustice will still exist, and it's going to keep existing until Jesus gets back. No matter how much I do, or how much I pray, these horrible things will still happen. That's no excuse for me to do nothing, but it does tell me that my focus needs to be on those around me and on what I can do to help those I come directly into contact with. I think that more would get done if fewer people were content to just write a check to a faraway charity.

Tony Arnold said...

Anonymous, I am cautious on stating that a high profile person is having a big effect on an issue. I am not saying a high profile person does not have an effect or cannot have an effect, but I think we should be cautious in our conclusions.

There is no doubt that someone like Bono, or others, get a great deal of press on an issue and it can seem like they are having a big effect, but one must actually look at results to see if a big change has resulted and can be traced to a source.

What were the statistics before the person got involved? Did they change significantly over time and if so, what was the exact source of this change?

I am not knocking any celebrity for their causes or actions, but there is a huge difference in being vocal about a cause while continuing in your celebrity endeavors and giving up your entire life to live among the suffering and serve them, ex. Mother Teresa.

Now, I have little doubt that Bono has probably done more for the suffering than I have, given his resources and taking his expression of heart at face value.

JMG, I liked your answer.

Anonymous said...

jmg, you misunderstood what I was trying to say. What I meant was, one person can make a tremendous difference. And I didn't mean by financial contributions. What you said about helping people you come into contact with (as you said) is EXACTLY what I was talking about.

I was just trying to give an example of what one person can do. Tony, I'm not sure you're aware of the impact Bono has had. The One Campaign just successfully lobied congress for the authorization of a huge sum (I forget the exact amount) on behalf of world hunger. His goal is to help eliminate world hunger in his life time--and he believes it will happen.

Not to be overly critical, but I believe the attitude of "no matter how much I do or pray, horrible things will still happen" is historically the type of thinking that has allowed some of histories most horrendous travesties.

Who will stand up for the poor and oppressed if not God's people?

Tony Arnold said...

Like I stated, I am not nay saying Bono or his work, I am just careful to make sure that any impact is real and measurable, and that the source of the improvement is clearly understood.

I like Bono and more power to his work.

BTW, thanks for joining in the discussion. That is the whole purpose of this blog. Promote discussion that aids growth.