Thursday, August 28, 2014

Surely it was for my welfare

One of the themes that has been reoccurring in my mind is that of God's providence and its good end; that is, the idea that God guides and permits all things to happen as they should, for own sake and for our own good, as St. Anthony the Great teaches. And of course, if God guides all things for our good, then this includes the bad things that happen to us as well. We find this lesson again and again throughout scripture.

Consider for instance this verse from the writing of King Hezekiah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness (Isa 38.9):

Surely it was for my welfare
that I had great bitterness;
but you have held back my life
from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
behind your back (v. 17).

Hezekiah suffered a grave illness and was near death, but finds that God heals them. Speaking about his experience a posteriori, after the fact, he comes to find that it was for his own good! It was good for God to let him go through sickness unto death, for the sake of the healing and the lesson learned.

I think what is present in these words is also a deeper spiritual truth about God's providence in the case of each of us. We may find ourselves bitter over failures and disappointments in our past. I know that this is often the case for me. For instance, if I see friends or acquaintances of mine with good jobs, working the domain they studied and love so much; or if I see Facebook photos of happy married couples during their wedding, or enjoying a movie night, or joking back and forth about silly things; if I find others are studying under famous professors and interacting with top scholars in some field of study -- it is easy, seeing all of these things, to be dissatisfied with my own state of affairs, which is a bit humbler than these. I might even get bitter over failed endeavors of the past: unrequited love; abortive personal projects; etc.

The message of this scripture here, I think, is that surely it was for my welfare. I think more often than not we are rather myopic, and we don't see the long-term consequences of certain things playing out as we would want. Certainly some persons have experienced this: the girl you loved so desperately turned out much later to be rather on the crazy side, or at the very least you have some sufficiently serious differences of personality. We say to ourselves, Boy I really dodged a bullet there!

Maybe we ought to think of everything this way. As I've cited before, Anthony the Great said that everything that happens to us, happens as it should. Thinking this way about the events of your life and the direction it takes has to inspire optimism and hope, since I am convinced that God knows what he is doing. The plan of my life is a good one; the path set before me is headed in the right direction, even if I don't know nor like all the twists and turns it will take. Perhaps a part of the bliss of the next world will consist in the perception and realization of all the different variables at play in the history of the world, and how everything had to happen just as it did.

Then, reflecting on our lives, we will say: Surely it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness.