Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kierkegaard on Suffering and Obedience

Kierkegaard cites this Scripture, Hebrews 5:8 "Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered."

He then makes this observation: "Now, if obedience directly followed suffering, it would be easy to learn. But learning obedience is not that easy. Humanly viewed, suffering is dangerous. But even more terrible is failing to learn obedience! Yes suffering is a dangerous schooling, but only if you do not learn obedience - ah, then it is terrible, just as when the most powerful medicine has the wrong reaction. In this danger a person needs God's help; otherwise he does not learn obedience. And if he does not learn this, then he may learn what is most corrupting: to learn craven despondency, learn to quench the spirit, learn to deaden any noble fervor in it, learn defiance and despair."
- pg 162, Provocations

The past few months have included many conversations with couples that are struggling to stay together, some are on the brink of dissolution, others are trying to stop the pain, and a few are just trying to figure out how to be happy together. What they all have in common is suffering, and they also include heavy doses of disobedience. There is this tenuous and beautiful moment available to each couple: in the suffering they have inflicted upon themselves and each other, they can gain wise insight into their own life and surrender their situation to Jesus. To obey is to love God more than the other or even themself, and to obey is to love the other like Christ loves the church, and to submit to one another like the church submits to Christ. To obey is to love with unending patience, generous kindness, avoidance of arrogance and boasting, death to envy and jealousy. To obey is to yield your will to the desires and wants of God.

The suffering that these couples are enduring could produce in them an obedient, yielded spirit to Jesus - which could bring about an end to that kind of suffering and make possible a kind of joy with each other that is both mature, wise, and lasting. But every couple needs to take stock of their contribution to the ongoing suffering they experience in their marriage, and consider who their disobedience is fueling the pain, and how the suffering could be used by God to bring about obedience and joy and redemption.

Kierkegaard goes on to write: " Without suffering you cannot really learn obedience. In the school of suffering...we learn the difficult lesson that it is indeed God who still rules, despite the suffering. This is the key to finding rest in your suffering. There is only one way in which rest is to be found: to let God rule in everything. Whatever else you might come to learn only pertains to how God has willed to rule. But as soon as unrest begins, the cause for it is due to your unwillingness to obey, your unwillingness to surrender yourselrf to God."
- pg 164, Provocations

Are you suffering? Be rigorous in your self-examination of how your disobedience has contributed to your pain. And then surrender to God's will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOL, when I read the "most powerful medicine" part, I instantly thought, "Buckley's, it tastes bad, but it works."