Life is on our side. The silence and the Cross of which we know are forces that cannot be defeated. In silence and suffering, in the heartbreaking effort to be honest in the midst of dishonesty (most of all our own dishonesty), in all these is victory. It is Christ in us who drives us through darkness to a light of which we have no conception and which can only be found by passing through apparent despair. Everything has to be tested. All relationships have to be tried. All loyalties have to pass through the fire. Much has to be lost. Much in us has to be killed, even much that is best in us. But Victory is certain. The Resurrection is the only light, and with that light there is no error.
Thomas Merton in a letter to Czeslaw Miłosz, as quoted in The Merton Journal 22.1 (2015)
Here’s another insightful quote from John Swinton’s Raging with Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil:
Sin, evil, and suffering … are secondary realities, intruders into the goodness of the world. As such they require, indeed demand, to be resisted in faith and hope rather than resigned to with stoicism and despair. Goodness is our original state …. The turn towards evil drags us into a state that is alien to the desired purposes of the creator. The presence of evil separates us not only from God, but also from our true selves. As such it needs to be strongly resisted. Resistance relates to the faithful participation in Christ’s redemptive movement in the world now and in the future. Evil is that which blocks and fragments Christ’s work of reclamation, restoration, and redemption and prevents human beings from experiencing the loving presence of God in and for the world.
Lament means ceasing to try to protect God from our anger, disillusionment and despair.
Lament … searches out the deepest places in the heart and exposes them to the presence of God. It is a whole-body experience.
Lament can be said to have reached its core when the true dimension of grief has been felt, touched, named and articulated.
People get the idea that they’re somehow deficient and defective if they feel pain. People of faith have done a terrible disservice to one another by thinking that, if they love God, they’re not supposed to feel pain.
These thoughts yet again come from Samuel Wells and Marcia A. Owen, Living without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence.
In one of his sermons in Strength to Love, Martin Luther King mentions George Frederic Watts’s painting ‘Hope’, which depicts a blindfolded woman astride a globe, plucking at her lyre’s remaining single string. G. K. Chesterton once commented that the first thought on anyone seeing it is that it should be called ‘Despair’, but Watts’s painting rather eloquently speaks of hope in despair. With all but one of the strings snapped, the woman, whilst clearly unspeakably sad, continues to play her lyre. She thus evokes an important aspect of the human condition, namely people’s ability, at their lowest point, to sense and feel a single string of hope that keeps them going when all else is failing.
We have experiences when the light of day vanishes, leaving us in some dark and desolate midnight – moments when our highest hopes are turned into shambles of despair or when we are the victims of some tragic injustice and some terrible exploitation. During such moments our spirits are almost overcome by gloom and despair, and we feel that there is no light anywhere. But ever and again, we look toward the east and discover that there is another light that shines even in the darkness and ‘the spear of frustration’ is transformed ‘into a shaft of light.’
… God has two lights: a light to guide us in the brightness of the day when hopes are fulfilled and circumstances are favorable, and a light to guide us in the darkness of the midnight when we are thwarted and the slumbering giants of gloom and hopelessness rise in our souls.
Faith in the dawn arises from the faith that God is good and just. When one believes this, he knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. He can walk through the dark night with the radiant conviction that all things work together for good for those that love God. Even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of some great fulfillment.