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THE USE OF SUFFERING
NEW CHURCH PRESS LTD. 20 BLOOMSBURY WAY LONDON, W.Cl
NORTH OF ENGLAND NEW CHURCH HOUSE 34 JOHN DALTON STREET MANCHESTER 2.
The Use of
THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY
OF THE NEW CHURCH
"1 counser thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich." Revelation 3:
If God is Love, why does He aHow people to suffer? Why isn't everyone healthy, happy and good? Why are so many afflicted with physical or mental illnesses? Why are there accidents, catastrophes, wars? To answer aH these questions, we must first try to see why we are alive in the world at aU. Let us go back to the first statement-God is Love. If He is Love, then He needs someone to love, someone who, of his or her own freewill, will respond to and return that love. God's love is so immense that He cares for each one of us in a special and individual way, and He created the whole universe for our
delight and for our use. He loves us so much, that He wants us aIl to become angels, and to live in Heaven for ever. He loves us so much that He took upon Him self a human nature and was born into the world as the Lord Jesus Christ, to fight against and conquer evil. He did this to give us back our freedom, so that we can choose to be good or bad, kind or unkind, loving or hating, generous or jealous and greedy, forbearing or bitter and resentful. If we were created ready made angels we would have no wiUs of our own, we would be as puppets dancing to the Creator's tune. We would have to love Him whether we would or no, and that is not true loving. This world is the place where we can make decisions, and form our characters as we grow over the years, so that, after death, we shaH be ready to choose to live in either Heaven or Hell. Not everyone will choose to be good, or to do the right. It is inevitable that sorne will love to be evil, or make unwise deci
sions unintentionally in politics, business, education, etc., and this may mean that the innocent will suffer through no fault of their own by victimisation, loss of reputation or job, redundancy or sorne such other unpleasantness. If, however, the Lord prevented people from doing what they wanted to do, He wouId be destroying their freewill. So He allows evil to happen, but He foresees it and prepares for it, so that good can result in the end. Nothing bad ever happens (0 anyone which has no( been foreseen and provided for. No evil that cornes to you is too great for you to bear-when it occurs, the strength to bear it cornes too, and you can emerge from your trial a better, stronger person. It may seem, and often is, terrible at the time, but good will come from it-good which will last for ever. Don't expect to be able to see this when you are suffering, for then you will have quite enough to do to ding on, and hope, and fight back-but afterwards-a long time afterwards - look back and
think again over what happened, and see how it has changed you. Then you will be able to recognise the workings of His Providence, and His loving care for your eternal welfare. (Ex. 33: 20 to 23). How does the Lord decide whom He will permit to suifer, and when? Why do some people seem to suifer more than others? If you reflect upon it, you will realise that everyone suifers at some time during his life. Those who are choosing to go from bad to worse, will have things happen which will bring them up with a jolt-this is the Lord's way of giving them another chance to stop and think, to change their evil ways before it is too late. The same applies to those who jog along from day to day in the shalIows of life, who chase after pleasures and amuse ments, and never bother to think or feel very deeply about anything. The sudden loss of a close relative or friend, or some such equalIy personal tragedy, may not be a tragedy at alI-it may be a blessing in disguise. And how about the countless
people who are consciously striving to be good, to love the Lord and their neigh bour, to conquer their many faults and blemishes of character? These are the most likely to be called upon to suffer, because they have already braced them selves to fight against evil, and this very fact will enrage the devils of Hell. The more you try to be good, the more the Hells will want to attack you. It isn't easy to be a real Christian-you have to be brave, dogged, and determined not to give way, not to lose faith. It wasn't easy for the Lord Jesus Christ to fight throughout His life on earth against the full strength of the Hells-we are only trying to follow in His footsteps. He says "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me" (Matt. Il : 29). But don't be discouraged-the benefits and rewards far exceed the suffering-the peace that cornes after the storm, that peace in the heart and mind; the confid ence that all is working together for good to those that love Him; the joy that cornes from the realisation that you are doing
His will; the happiness that results from forgetting yourself and trying ta make others happy. The mere fact that you are now suffering again in sorne way is sure praof that you have consolidated your position sa far, and are ready ta advance along the road ta Heaven. Looked at in this way, every trial is a challenge-you should try ta find out what it is sent ta teach you, what particular failing you are ta undermine this time. It is a compli ment, when you realise that the Lord thinks you are ready for sorne new test of your faith. He says "As many as 1 love, 1 rebuke and chasten" (Rev. 3: 19). Things are never quite sa dark when you can see daylight ahead. As Job said (23: 10) "When He hath tried me, 1 shall come forth as gold." Let us now examine the rest of these questions more closelyPhysical iIIness
This is the outward sign of sorne deep spiritual defect, not in the persan affected,
but in the world in general. The Lord doesn't send it, He doesn't wish for it at aIl, but He permits it so that our freedom may be maintained. The only sure way to make everyone healthy is for everyone to conquer his besetting sins, and advance rapidly towards angelhood. lllness is not a thing to be discussed lightheartedly. It may be sudden and serious, it may be long-drawn-out and wearying to bear, it may be intolerably painful and exhausting. If you are the patient, what can you do to help your self? Rest in the Lord, and trust in His love and goodness, co-operate as far as possible with the doctors and nurses, and do aIl you can to take your mind off your self. Try not to waIlow in self-pity, pre sent a brave front to the world and you will find you really are brave. Remernber that, however ill you are, there are prob ably rnany more who are in a worse case than you are. Be grateful to those who wait on you, and do things for your com fort--greet them with a smile and a cheer
fuI word. Just think how unrewarding it must be to have to care for a patient who is always grumbling and finding fanlt. Be eager to make the effort to get back to normal when the time cornes. The right attitude of mind is half the battle, and your recovery will be more rapid. "In quietness and confidence shaU be your strength" (Is. 30: 15). But suppose that every effort is of no avail, that you are going to die? Do not fear death-for you it will be a release from pain and suffering, and an entry into a fuUer, happier life. The Lord and His highest angels will be with you at that time, helping you to compose your mind in confidence and peace, reassuring you that, when you awake, you will still be yourself, and will go on living to eternity. And if you are not the patient, but the one who loves and cares for him, what comfort and solace can be given to you? At times it may seem that it is aU so point less; you are exhausted and drained of aU your strength through lack of sleep; you
wish with aIl your heart that you could bear the pain and anguish in place of the loved one; you can't go on any longer. "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed" (Ps. 37: 3). Spare a minute now and then to dip once more into the Word of God and, as you work, turn to Him continually in prayer. Your courage and strength will be renewed, you will realise that you have done and are doing the best you can, and no-one could do more than that. When the invalid recovers, you will soon forget the worry and pain in t~e joy of living life to the full together agam. And should your fears be realised, and you lose your loved one-the present grief at the separation will be hard to bear; your life will seem empty, and without hope. "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shaH sustain thee" (Ps. 55: 22). The best therapy is to force oneself to go on living as before, doing the normal, routine, small things of every day - automatically at
first-living a day at a time, and trying not to look too far ahead. If it is a beloved child who has been taken from you, ding fast to the thought that he is being loved and cared for by angel-parents, and will grow up and be educated in the Heavens until he becomes an angel in his own right. Time will eventually heal the wound, and you will realise that the separation is only temporary. One day your calI will come, too, and then you will be reunited, with great joy. If, on the other hand, you are a doctor or nurse or one who is caring for the incurable or very ill, it is often difficult to understand why sorne young people are struck down with chronic diseases, their only prospect being weary days, weeks, months, years ahead during which they will be unable to do much for them selves, and will be a burden to others. Vou wonder, too, why so many apparently use less and difficult old people, who are a sore trial to those who look after them and whose friends and contemporaries have
died, go on living while other younger, active people are suddenly cut down in mid-stream. Vou will find God's answer to these problems when you remember that not only are the patients working out their salvation by reacting in the right way to their unfavourable conditions, but also those who care for them, by showing consideration, patience and devotion.
Why should this happen to us? What have we done to deserve this? So might you exclaim when you realise that your longed-for child is mentally deficient, or deformed in sorne way. But this is the wrong way to approach the matter-the sooner you can bring yourselves to accept the facts as they are, the sooner you will be able to adjust yourselves to the unwanted circumstances, and to make the best of them. The question should rather be-how can we do our best for our little one? How can we make its life as normal and happy as is humanly possible? In
tinding the answers, you will grow to maturity-you will have to expend more of your love and devotion than would be necessary for a normal child, and you will become better parents and tiner people as a result-you, too, will be advancing towards angelhood. Of course, you are bound to come up against the unthinking and unfeeling ones, who say unkind things and act in a hurtful manner. Do not worry too much on their account-they are not worth bothering about-in fact, they are the losers, because they have missed the opportunity of being kind and under standing and helpfu1. There will be others -your true friends and relations-who will rally round and support you. Over the years you will have to face hard decisions-whether to keep the little one at home, or whether it would be better for him to go to a special school, where trained and devoted workers can help to develop his limited powers. No-one can help you to decide-you must talk your problems over with the Lord, and the right
way will be made clear. Don't worry too much about his future in the world, about what would happen to him if you were no longer there-remember, the Lord has his welfare at heart, and He will provide whatever is necessary when the need arises. Don't worry, either, about his destiny after death, for that at least is certain -however long or short his life-span, he will awake as a normal person, with his brain unimpaired, and will grow and develop to become an angel of Heaven. So take comfort from that-a normal child could grow up to become, through his own choice, a devil in Hell, but your afflicted chiId will most certainly become an angel. And how about the mature person who develops a mental illness, often brought on through the stresses and strains of modern day-to-day living? Distressing as this can be, it is not disastrous, even if the patient never recovers in this world. Assuredly, when he awakes in the next world, he will have regained his sanity,
and will be able to advance from the point at which the illness arrested his develop ment. However, in many cases, a full and complete recovery can be made in this worId, and loving relatives and friends should be there at hand to help him to stand once more on his own feet. Both the helpers and the helped have lessons to learn from this experience-especially the fact that with God's help, aIl things are possible (Matt. 19: 26). Learning to rely on Him at aIl times is the best way of com bating a repetition of this type of illness His peace and sanity will flood the heart that opens itself to Him.
Wars and other Catastrophes
If God is love, why doesn't He prevent or stop wars altogether? He hales war, and the evil motives from which it origin ates, and He hates the destruction and misery which result from it. Remember how He grieved when the people of Jer usalem rejected His loving care and guidance, preferring to go their own way
"0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would l have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not" (Matt. 23: 37). The Lord must allow evil people to be wicked, to preserve their freedom to choose, and so from time to time this wickedness will boil up and overflow into war. U ntold harm and damage may be done, thousands suffer a violent and un timely death or be maimed for lüe, but the responsibility is ours, not His. But whatever evil we may bring upon our selves, He works to alleviate it and turn it to good, and this is evident in wartime in an upsurge of friendliness and good neighbourliness, in open-hearted charity and goodness of heart shown to the dis tressed and disabled, in heroic acts of bravery and self-sacrifice, which would not have been evident under ordinary con ditions of life. But does this compensate for aIl those
lives lost, many of them young people just starting to make their own way in the world? How does the Lord's Providence work in deciding whether or not certain people may be permitted to die prematurely? In every case He takes into consideration four aspects - the person's progress towards salvation; his present use in the world; his use in the world to the angels of Heaven; and the use he can perform in the Heavens. The Lord would prefer that aIl should complete their alIotted span but, as this is not always possible, He makes sure that nothing shall prejudice their chance of salvation. No adult dies before his choice of character has been freely fixed and determined; no child dies without going straight to Heaven. Life in this world is not the be-aIl and end-aIl of existence-we continue to live after death in a better world than this, therefore we should not grieve unduly for anyone whose earthly life has been cut short. Rather should our sympathies be with the bereaved-the widows, and child20
ren deprived of their fathers, the parents who have lost a beloved son or daughter theirs is the harder part, for they will have to pick up the threads and make sorne sort of a new life for themselves. This won't be easy-it will take a lot of cour age, but the Lord and His angels will be working for them and with them in their distress, and He will welcome any assist ance we can offer in His Name. In considering the so-called "Acts of God", such as hurricanes, cyclones, earth quakes, volcanoes, fires, floods, etc., we must first realise that although God is AlI Powerful He cannot act contrary to His Nature, and therefore cannot interfere with the normal working of His physical laws in the unîverse. Natural disasters are the outcome of spiritual causes, which can only be prevented by destroying the evil from which they originate. This can readily be seen in the boiling up and explosive force of a volcano, which is the outward expression in the world of Nature of the hatred, jealousy, envy, revenge and other
evils which infest our hearts unless we subdue them. That they still occur so fre quently is a sign that evil is too powerful in our modern world, and the remedy is in our hands. We can, if we will, thrust it out of our hearts-we cannot reform others, but we can start in a small way with ourselves. And we can also urge that any possible precautions be taken to pre vent or avoid a wholesale loss of life, which is even more distressing to our Creator than it is to us. Many think that human beings should not be allowed to live near volcanoes, or in places where earthquakes are likely to occur but, in the final analysis, the choice must be with the people themselves. If they weigh up the obvious dangers, and offset these against the many advantages accru ing from free fertilisers supplied by vol canic ash, or good climatic conditions for crop growing, and decide to take the chance-it is up to them. Usually, too, people living under these conditions are more aware of their Creator, and the ever
present possibility of sudden death turns their thoughts more frequently to the reality of life after death, so they are better prepared to face the horror and tragedy if and when it cornes. If we could only remember that the Lord's Providence is His loving care for us al al! limes, then, when we are shocked and horrified by sorne terrible accident, murder, assassination, or other catastro phe, our faith would stand firm and we would be strengthened in our resolve to stamp out the evil which caused it, both in ourselves and in the world. Our world today, in spite of aIl its evil, is a wonderful and challenging place in which to live. Although wickedness may be more appar ent today than ever before, yet the use of radio and television in so many homes, and modern facilities for travel have caused an equivalent increase in the awareness of the needs of others, and in a social conscience among right-minded people. There are so many organisations nowadays which are geared towards feed
ing the undernourished and underprivi leged, and teaching them how to use and cultivate their lands, so that they may retain their self-respect and become self supporting. We are aIl very much alive to the sufferings of others in countries far distant from our own, and our hearts are moved with compassion to help in any way we cano And it is good that this should be so, for these are heavenly motives we are fostering in ourselves. The more we turn away from ourselves and towards the Lord, living a life of love to Him and our neighbour, the more will suffering and its attendant evils decrease in the worId. Tt is up to us, each one of us, ta do our bit to help. In the final words of His great Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7: 24 ta 27) the Lord says that the wise persan is the one who hears His teachings and puts them into practice in daily life-he who builds the house of his character on the rock of truth, which will withstand aIl the buffet ings of this world; but the foolish person
he who hears and doesn't do-who builds his character on the shifting sands of worldly ideas, will find it collapse and dis integrate when troubles come upon him. "1 counsel thee to buy of Me gold fried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich" (Rev. 3: 18).
The following titles are a\so available in this series obtainable fram the New Church Enquiry Centre, 20, Bloomsbury Way, London, W.c. 1.
100 Points of New Church Doctrine. Friendship with God. L. H. Houghton. The New Church and its Doctrines. Rev. F. Hodson Rose Working with God. Rev. Charles A. Hall The Jewel of Human Life, True Morrioge in the Life of Religion. Rev. Dennis Duckworth. Reol Religion. Ezra Hyde Alden. What con the New Church do for you? Rev. Christopher V. A. Hasler. Children in Heaven. H. Gordon Drummond. Something New. Rev. George T. Hill. Journey into Eternity. Kathleen Prince. Christening the Children. Rev. A. Clapham.
The doctrines of the New Church are contained in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, published by The Swedenborg Society; 20 Bloomsbury Way, London, W.C.I.
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Designed by G. Roland Smith.
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