Thursday, March 8, 2012
Abandoment to Divine Providence
One of my favorite books, which I have read so many times I have lost count, is "Abandoment to Divine Providence" by Jean-Pierre DeCaussade. Using both Scripture and the Church's theological tradition, DeCaussade says that we should accept every single event in our lives as if it came from the hand of God, because God at least permits it to happen, or it would not happen. One of the most important Scripture texts Caussade uses is Job, who said, after Satan killed his children, that God had taken them away (Job 1:21). Similar texts can be found in the David story and elsewhere in the Bible, including the exhortation to trust in Providence in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34): "Consider the Lilies of the Field." But when someone is suffering, the last thing they probably want to hear is that God permited their suffering for a reason, and to trust in God. But for me that is the most important thing to believe, and the hardest thing to believe- harder to believe than to believe that a piece of bread becomes the Body of Christ. The rational part of my mind is always saying that suffering is pointless. Shakespeare made the point that no philosopher can bear a toothache patiently (Much Ado about Nothing, Act 5, 35-36). Perhaps non-philosophers can. I suppose that depends on your definition of patience, Christians talk about the patience of Christ in his suffering death on the Cross, or the patience of the Martyrs, or the patience of Job (James 5:11- perhaps not the best translation of that verse, but the idea fits the context). So perhaps patience is possible in the face of suffering. When we are suffering- whether it is the suffering of dying, mental illness, or any physical or mental pain, perhaps there is some comfort in believing in an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent God who allows all suffering for a reason, even though before we get to Heaven most of the suffering in the world doesn't make sense. Aquinas said the human mind was incapable of totally understanding the gnat. How can we expect to make sense of suffering and death? Anyway, I think there is great value in seeing my own sufferings or those of my family and friends as being permitted by God for a reason, and not just pointless, as well as the sufferings of the whole world.