In His hiddenness

Why does God seem to hide from us?

“‘. . . Then he also went, not publicly, but as it were in secret’ (Jn 7.10).  This preference for hiddenness, for remaining unseen, seems to have been a definite impulse of Jesus, clearly depicted on a few occasions in the gospel.  It appears he wanted to go unobserved during certain interludes, to pass shrouded through the crowds, inconspicuous and ordinary, even after he began his public life.  Surely this desire to remain unrecognized cannot have been a capricious gesture.  What is happening here, since in other places he is intent on revealing himself?  Does it give hint of a divine attribute which we have not named properly, and yet of vital importance for knowing God’s relations with our soul?  These occasions when he desired to remain concealed and unnoticed, are they showing us the shape and contour, as it were, of the only encounter with God at times available to us?  Must we necessarily seek him in his hiddenness if we are to find him?”  (Fr. Donald Haggerty, Contemplative Provocations)

When the thread snaps

If you feel things are out of control in your life (and even if you don’t), this is for you:

Hanging By A Thread

 A week ago, I thought I had things under control.  My blog post was up on Monday and I’d jotted down thoughts for another two; my upcoming classes with senior executives were planned; my beard was trimmed.
On Tuesday, I ate lunch with a friend I’ve been out of contact with for a while.  He gave me inscribed copies of his two most recent books, which I started reading that day.  Then, it all changed.
We brought our eight year old, Jopa, to the MD’s office that afternoon.  She’d been showing signs of what we thought was an infection.  We were wrong.  It was Type I diabetes.
One day her pancreas was producing insulin.  The next it was not.  Her life, and ours, changed forever with the mysterious shutting down of her relevant cells.
She and my wife went to the hospital, where they remained for three days.  And, that was the least of it.  She’ll be pinpricking her finger and giving herself shots for as long as she lives.
Something similar happened to a parishioner who was healthy and living a normal life on Friday.  Saturday, he slipped on the ubiquitous ice, cracked his skull, and underwent emergency brain surgery.  He is in critical condition, fighting for his life.
Read the rest here.

When we can’t understand

Often we find ourselves in situations where it is so difficult to understand what God is doing, why He is allowing some particular thing to happen, why it appears that Satan has the upper hand.  Her is a bit of sage wisdom from Amy Carmichael which I trust will provide encouragement for any of you in those types of situations:

Some find it hard to believe that Satan (a conquered foe) can interfere in the affairs of a child of God.  Yet we read of St. Paul earnestly endeavoring to do something and Satan hindering him [1 Thess 2.18].  The reason for Satan’s power was not prayerlessness.  ‘Night and day am I praying with passionate earnestness that I may see your faces’ [1 Thess 3.10 Way].  Satan could not touch his spirit, his heart’s affections, or any other vital thing in him, but he could so order events that the apostle could not do for these children of his love all that he longed to do.  He could only write letters.  He could not be with them

And in the familiar 2 Cor 12.7, we have a still stranger thing, a messenger from Satan allowed to do bodily hurt, and allowed to continue to hurt, we are not told for how long.

So it is clear that there are activities in the Unseen which are not explained to us.  Every now and then the curtain between is drawn aside for a moment, and we see.  But it is soon drawn back again.

Only this we know: ‘On the day I called, thou didst answer me, my strength of soul thou didst increase’ [v. 3].  If that be so what does anything matter? Oh, to use all disappointments, delays and trials of faith and patience as St. Paul used his.  What golden gain came to our glorious Lord because of these experiences.  And see how he closes this letter to the Thessalonians which is so full of human longing: ‘The very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He that calls you, Who also shall do it’ [1 Thess 5.23,24].  Faithful is He: He will do it.” (AC, Edges, pp. 141-142)

Red Sea Rule 8

Jumping ahead in the book I referred to yesterday, Rule #8 is “Trust God to deliver in His own unique way.”

God will deliver His children from every evil work, from every peril and problem, from tribulation, even from death itself.  But there are no cookie cutters in heaven.  God doesn’t have standardized, same-size-fits-all solutions to our various problems.  He treats every situation as singular and special, and He designs a unique, tailor-made deliverance to every trial and trouble.

He goes on to write about how God can indeed deliver in miraculous ways and does, but other times, in His providence, He works in mysterious ways that we cannot always understand.

When God does not deliver overtly (through a miracle) or covertly (through providence), He will deliver mysteriously, with a deeper level of intervention than we can discern; in the end it will be better for us, though for a time we may be perplexed.

When Vance Havner, the wry North Carolina evangelist, lost his wife to disease, he was disconsolate.  But out of the experience he later wrote:

When before the throne we stand in Him complete, all the riddles that puzzle us here will fall into place and we shall know in fulfillment what we now believe in faith–that all things work together for good in His eternal purpose.  No longer will we cry “My God, why?”  Instead, “alas” will become “Alleluia,” all question marks will be straightened into exclamation points, sorrow will change to singing, and pain will be lost in praise.

“What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” (Jn 13.7)

The search for God

One of the books I’m reading, actually re-reading, this Advent, is a book of a nondescript name with an unattractive cover: The Roots of Christian Mysticism,  by Olivier Clement, one of the foremost Orthodox theologians of our day.  What I love about the book is the way Clement brings together quote after quote from ancient authors with his brilliant commentary interspersed.  This past week I have been re-reading the first three chapters.  The second is entitled “God, Hidden and Universal”.  Clement is trying to communicate how utterly inaccessible God in His essence is to us.  Of course, this concept–which, of course, we cannot fully grasp–is essential to understanding the inexpressible love of God for us in becoming man.  However, instead of quoting from his book :-), I am going to quote the late Fr. Richard John  Neuhaus (from First Things)  from another book, God With Us, an Advent-Christmas book put out by Paraclete Press.

We are all searching, and ultimately–whether we know it or not–we are searching for God.  Ultimately, we are searching for the Ultimate, and the Ultimate is God.  It is not easy, searching for God . . .  The fact is that we do not really know what we’re looking for or who we’re looking for.  Almost a thousand years ago, St. Anselm of Canterbury said, “God is that greater than which cannot be thought.”
      Think about it.  We can stretch our minds as high and deep and far as our minds can stretch, and at the point of the highest, deepest, farthest stretch of our minds, we have not “thought” God.  There is always a thought beyond which we cannot think.  “God is that greater than which cannot be thought.
      God is, literally, inconceivable.  And that is why God was conceived as a human being in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  Because we cannot, even in thought, rise up to God, God stooped down to us in Jesus, who is “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.”

I will continue with this tomorrow.