Last week I wrote about Tolkien’s notion of Eucatastrophe and a Christian hope that, in the end, God will bring about a surprising rescue.
The other thing lying behind this post and that I swing around to consider today is that on an individual level it does not always work out (at least not in this life or world). Sometimes things go disastrously wrong – not around the corner or to someone in a far away place – but to me. To you. To my family and friends.
This state of affairs need not surprise us. Jesus speaks several times about the likelihood of persecution from following him: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”( Matthew 5:11 NRSV). Jesus says that good happens to everyone and so does evil: “… for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5;45b).
Evil in all its forms may – often does – come our way. Sometimes we delude ourselves that it will not. Sometimes the Christian witness gets corrupted into a promise that everything will come out swell in the here and now. Or that following Christ means following him to a place of prosperity and physical blessing. The pundits of positive thought and hard work make similar claims. Work hard. Work smart. Do what I suggest and you will thrive.
But you may not. I may not. People get cancer and die. Companies eliminate jobs and cast off hard-working people. Hurricane strike cities full of faithful, positive thinking people. Accidents of nature and senseless acts of violence (in every sense of that word) come our way.
I have been working with someone who encouraged me to read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search of Meaning (I recommend you read it, too!). In the Forward Rabbi Harold Kushner summarizes Frankl’s observations from the horror of the Nazi Holocaust –
“Finally, Frankl’s most enduring insight, one that I have called on often in my own life and in countless counseling situations: Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
I am living into this compelling observation in this season of life. I cannot – you cannot – control what happens by any amount of positive thinking, strategic preparation, or correct belief. I can – you can – respond in faith and hope and with a sense of purpose. In this life it is all we have.. and it is enough.