reflections on suffering, 4 of 5

In reflecting on Hebrews 10.30-39 and asking a question about divine retribution and reward, I suspect something is amiss in a view of God, though historically long-lived from ancient to post-modern times, who is expected to save the faithful from all suffering. Something may not be quite right in thinking of the divine, as my dear friend Elin Whitney Smith oft says, as a “Mighty Mouse God” who, in the time of suffering speedily shows up, singing (or perhaps backed by the chanting of an angelic chorus), “Here I come to save the day!” Mighty Mouse

The notion of an “on call” or “speed-dial” God who, as the Cosmic Interventionist, dutifully stands by ready to intercede to make things right has a certain appeal, especially in an uncertain world where forces, natural, human, and spiritual, operate with liberty and, at times, with malevolent energy. However, this characterization of God isn’t a part of my theology. The God I have come to know (indeed, if “know” is a fair word to use) is far too majestic and mysterious, thus alway beyond my fullest comprehension.[1]

What I do know is that suffering happens.

Perhaps then “God” – whom I understand to be the author and creator of life, indeed, life itself; the totality of all that I can know as real, all that I believe is real, including suffering, and, therefore, the unity, the oneness of all that is – is always the One standing by us, with us, and in us through all things.

Illustration: Mighty Mouse – original concept and image by Isadore “Izzy” Klein and Paul Terry, 1945


[1] Having said this, nevertheless, I am a person of prayer, which I believe to be less about my well-intentioned asking of God for blessings or benefits, whether for others or myself (although, indeed, I do!), and more, in the language of The Episcopal Church’s Catechism, “Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 856). This understanding of prayer mirrors and matches my sense of the meaning of the Apostle Paul’s appeal that I “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.16) and, even more, that I “present (my body) as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12.1). By “body” (from the Greek, soma), Paul meant and I mean all that I am and all that I have, which is to say my life. In this light, I can and do speak of my life of prayer, indeed, that my life is prayer and, thus, a reflection of the oblationary hymn (words by Frances Ridley Havergal, 1874):

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord to thee.

Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.

Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King.

Take my intellect and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.

Take myself and I will be ever, only all for Thee.

2 thoughts on “reflections on suffering, 4 of 5

  1. Standing by us through it all!!! Yep that’s the God I know and love as well. Life is Real, and I used to always say “get real” to folks who were living in their own little unrealistic worlds. For me, a world without at least some suffering wouldn’t be real, and we’d never learn any critical life lessons like compassion for others as you mentioned in your previous post. I used to be one of those folks who wanted God on speed-dial so He could run in and save the day. Other times I didn’t believe I needed Him and He could stay away til I needed Him again. Thankfully that was a long time ago and I’ve since learned that God truly is with us all the time!! Thanks for the reminder Paul!!

    Liked by 1 person

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