Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Shall know Why

By Emily Dickinson

I shall know why-when Time is over--
And I have ceased to wonder why--
Christ will explain each separate anguish
In the fair schoolroom of the sky--

He will tell me what "Peter" promised--
And I--for wonder at his woe--
I shall forget the drop of Anguish
That scalds me now--that scalds me now!

"Who has not suffered that lives at all?" asks one of MacDonald's characters.[1] Indeed, life is suffering: Contradiction, misfortune, disappointment and heartbreak surrounded us. Why must we enter the Kingdom of God through many tribulations?

I used to know the answers to that question, but life--now that I'm closer to its end than to its beginning--has knocked most of them right out of my head. God chided Job and his friends,[2] as Jesus chided his disciples,[3] when they drew unwarranted conclusions from suffering. In the face of affliction, I'm learning now to be more or less silent. When my friends tell me their lives are difficult, I answer "Of course." When they ask me why they're suffering, I shrug and tell them, "I don't know."

Why life should be this way, I cannot say, but I do know this: It will not always be this way; there will be an end. Eternal glory lies ahead, as Peter promised, "after we have suffered for a little while."[4] There, in that "fair schoolroom," our Lord will explain "each separate anguish," but I doubt, then, that we will care. In the awesome flood of his wisdom and love, and in the beauty[5] that will be ours for all eternity, we shall forget our present, light, momentary affliction[6]--"the drop of Anguish that scalds me now--that scalds me now!"

It's a matter of perspective.


[1] From George MacDonald's Donal Grant
[2] God's "answer" to Job's questions was "Hush, child. You wouldn't understand if I told you" (Peter Kreeft).
[3] John 9:2ff.
[4] "The God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you"(1 Peter 5:10).
[5] I have become convinced that the New Testament word, "glory," which refers to the epiphany (shining out or manifestation) of eternal truth and goodness, is the equivalent of our word "beauty."
[6] "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

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