Addressing Questions of Suffering

Here is a quote by Howard Stone from “The Word of God and Pastoral Care”

Over the years, while making pastoral carecaution2bagainst2bbad2badvice visits and especially hospital visits, I have sadly encountered many people whose well-meaning friends and acquaintances have responded to their why questions with theological answers that left them terribly upset and proved actually to be destructive: ‘This is God’s punishment on you and for your sins.’ ‘This is God’s will; you have to accept it.’ ‘This has happened to bring you to the Lord.’ ‘God wanted your dear one with him in heaven.’ ‘If you hadn’t skipped out on your wife, this wouldn’t have happened.’ ‘If you had stayed home with your children where God wants you to be, they wouldn’t have started taking drugs.’

More recently I have also come across another whole class of answers — more psychological than religious — to theodicy issues: ‘You are responsible for your illness.’ ‘You are sick because of your destructive thoughts.’ ‘The cancer inside you is pent up anger; you’ve got to release it to get well.’ ‘You are what you eat; if only you had cut out salt and exercised more.’ Some people are so eager to give their answers that they scarcely wait for the questions to be asked. The results are often quite grim.

When I first began pastoral care work, I would have thought such pronouncements were rare, or occurred only in the more conservative denominations. Not so! Things such as this happen everywhere, regardless of the conservative or liberal orientation. Simplistic and damaging answers flow from well-meaning people at a time when their hearers are in considerable distress, vulnerable, and unable to talk back. I raise the issue here because if ministers care only for people’s emotional pain and do not respond theologically to the issue of theodicy, parishioners will inevitably get their theological education elsewhere, and it may not be the kind we would have wished for them. In other words, if ministers will not respond, sooner or later, to the vital questions of theodicy, neighbors and friends are likely to do so, and not always in a helpful manner.                                       –page 165

Advertisements

February Updates

January 20st.  CPSP-Philippines Board of Trustees Meeting was held at Bukal Life Care.

February 16th.  Hot Springs Trip for Drug Surrenderer Group.

March 8th.  Graduation of PBTS. Also graduation of two CPE groups (9 total), and our CPO group (6 total).

March 12 and 13.  Summer CPE Orientation.

April 26-27.  Quirino Ministry Trip

May ____.  Dr. Doug Dickens trip to Philippines.

May ____.  Bob Munson (Administrator of Bukal Life Care) trip to Philippines.

Quote on Spiritual Disciplines

“… (W)e need to check that our disciplines foster the fruits of social as well as individual compassion (though even individual compassion ultimately is social compassion by virtue of the interdependence of all things). We need to ensure that our spiritual attentiveness leads to sensitivity and action that fosters God’s just and reconciling peace among the many social configurations of our planet — ethnic, class, and racial groups; nations; deep religious traditions — and between these and our ecological environment (including our own bodies).

What has been called the spiritual life in the past often has had a sad tendency to ignore this wider concern so central to the Church’s prophetic tradition. This compartmentalization of the individual spiritual life is, happily, breaking down today. Increasingly, spiritual life is understood as the life of the Spirit in the whole life of the planet, coaxing us toward ever-deeper, liberating communion with one another and witnessing to our shared and gifting Source who empowers our true unity in diversity.

At the same time, it is evident today that those who once tried to collapse the spiritual life into direct action for a just, human community have discovered that God’s shalom requires more than this. If such action is to be sustained and discerning, it must be rooted in a direction relation to God in prayer, Scripture, and daily attentiveness, not only for the activist, but as part of the goal for the community for whom he or she works. Without a deep spiritual vision, realism about grace and freedom, and sustained discipline, no community can have an adequate foundation for the fullness of life to which we are called. It is hard enough to find our way with these. Without them, we lose our orientation to the discerning knowledge of how to be in the world but not of it: alone and together. This knowledge for Christians begins with faith in God for us as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is sustained through time in a rhythm of appreciation and active ministry, both in solitude and with others who form the various dimensions of community to which we are called.

      -Tilden H. Edwards. Living With Apocalypse: Spiritual Resources for Social Compassion (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1984), 5.

This passage speaks of Spiritual Discipline(s) and the dangers of extremes. One could be said to be the extreme of the Individualist. This person focuses on self in relationship to God, with little focus others in the community of faith, or the broader human community. It might be said that this person sees spiritual discipline in emphasizing the first half of the Great Commandment (love of God) without understanding its implications in terms of the second part (love of neighbor). The other extreme is that of the Activist. This person is so focused on helping others (love of neighbor) that the foundation of that love (love of God) is wanting.

Spiritual vitality rejects these extremes and brings the two aspects of the Great Commandment together.