The Scale of Pain
“God is not the reason why these things happen. God is the way through them.”
I have been reflecting on this in connection with the sense of profound helplessness I spoke about. It occurs to me that many of our concerns, anxieties, griefs, tasks, challenges and opportunities are just so huge that we cannot get our heads round them, and if we try, we quickly become discouraged, depressed or overwhelmed. The scale of the thing, whatever it is, is so far beyond our imagining.
But perhaps it is God’s job to take care of the big picture in these situations. If we are right to believe that God is infinite and eternal love, then God is far greater than any “big thing” which threatens to overpower us. Perhaps all God asks of us is to face the “big thing” one little bit at a time. Just deal with the next step - the job that is right in front of us - whatever it is we have to do in the present moment. Perhaps it is all right to shut everything else out so that we can do that: take this moment, this hour, this day and do what has to be done to the best of our ability and resolutely shelve everything else until whenever.
We can feel so guilty about doing this, but I can’t help wondering whether perhaps Jesus had to live like this all the time, because otherwise the suffering that he saw around him and the need of those who came to him would have overpowered him to the extent that he would have been unable to address it. I wonder if this is part of what he meant when he taught his disciples to ask for bread one day at a time. Maybe this is how we follow his “way” through the huge things that face us - how God becomes the “way through” them. Because we focus just on this moment, and ask only for what we need to do what must be done here and now.
It is a way of faith, because we have to trust that God who meets our need in this moment will keep on meeting our need in each subsequent moment, too. We have to trust that what we need will be given as we go along, at the point when we need it, rather than up front, in advance. This can be hard, because the greater the challenge, the more we long to be sure that we have all that we need to deal with it, to be certain that we have enough. But God does not offer us that kind of certainty, but rather the promise that what we need will be given just-in-time. For some of us, trusting that God can be relied upon in this way is the hardest thing we do.
This is a way of faith in another respect, too. It requires us to have faith in our friends and those around us, because if we are keeping our focus low and narrow, we cannot pay attention to much of what is going on around us. We are like race-horses wearing blinkers so that they do not get distracted but run a straight, direct race. We have to trust that those who love us are getting on with everything that we cannot or can no longer do, and that the things which matter to us are safe in their hands. Or, ultimately, in God’s keeping.
O God of eternity,
in your endless mercy,
meet me in this moment,
as I am, here and now.
And in this moment,
give me yourself,
for here and now you are
love, faith, hope,