We’ve come to the 16th chp in Darryl Tippens, Pilgrim Heart. The topic: Suffering: The Fire that Purifies. Suffering, he observes with could be a little bit of a warning to those who need it, “is not a good to be sought… but it is often a significant catalyst in the maturation of the pilgrim heart.” How has suffering changed you? (Reminder: our next book will be Jonathan Wilson, Why Church Matters — two weeks from today. Buy it and join the conversation.)
“All great accomplishments require perseverance and at least some measure of ascetic self-denial” (186). I’d modify that: we might be less concerned with “great” accomplishments and more in sync with the routine — and the same truth applies. The genuinely good development in character and formation is the result of our nose at the grindstone.
“God is the healer who transforms our wounds … into something beautiful” (187).
For me, this is the right perspective. We can debate at length God’s sovereignty and how much freedom God grants us, but for some of us it is harder to say that “God caused something bad” than it is for us to say “I’ve learned to trust in God through the bad.” Darryl asks the question of Gideon, from Judg 6:13: “But, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?”
I like this: when others ask this question of us, “we must tread softly and speak slowly” (188). The condition of the person should shape our answers — some are daytime answers and some are night presence.
Doubt is a kind of suffering. Notice these words from Flannery O’Connor: “I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe” (189).
If there are helicopter parents who hover over their children’s every more, there are helicopter spiritual mentors — who don’t give space for the person to think and ponder and doubt and experiment and learn and believe. Some people have to “live the questions” (Rilke, p. 193).
And this for the end: “I do not believe that time heals all wounds (not in this life, anyway), but I do believe one can learn to carry accrued wounds with grace and resolve” (195).