When in Sickness or Hardship
When Things Go Wrong, Chapter 2
by Harry McMullan, III
Seeing afflicted innocents, some have questioned God's love, even his existence. But Father loves all his children, and wants none to be hurt, sick, or crushed by circumstance. The existence of suffering rather proves that God has placed us in the only sort of world where strong characters could possibly be built, that is, a place where freely taken actions have real consequences. God never visits tribulation upon his children, but created our world as it is that we might learn and mature through contact with actual reality. Such an education can be harsh, but worth the gain in making us strong, faithful people who can believe in spiritual values in the midst of so much that seems totally contrary to all that is good, beautiful, and true.
So how will we greet the unwelcome guests of sickness and hardship when they arrive, as arrive they inevitably do? We can be hunkered-down fatalists, who are rarely disappointed in their expectation of the worst; whiners and complainers, who vainly look for someone else to blame for their problems; reflexive optimists, who dream on in their world of unreality; or, we can face life with simple faith in Father's willingness to give us strength to solve and overcome life's problems, confident in his ability to draw good out of every situation. In partnership with God we make the most of whatever comes our way, in expectant faith and with aggressive determination to prevail.
Father could, of course, heal all human sickness with a word, but to do so would violate the physical laws of his ordaining and would not lead men into the kingdom. The five thousand whom Jesus fed on the shores of Galilee did not enter the kingdom, nor the five hundred at Capernaum whom he healed at sunset.
While progressing science gradually solves the problems of disease, we should take comfort in our Father's knowledge of our affliction. When all within human power to ameliorate the situation has been done, we should accept our lot, remembering that all affliction is temporary, and can conduce to upbuild our eternal souls provided we accept our situation with dignity, faith, and complete submission to Father's will. After all personal resources are exhausted, we can rest in our Parent's love, where wholehearted faith in God can bring about the healing of any affliction.
Man does not live by bread alone, but bread is necessary for man to live. Inadequate financial resources is one of the most common hardships. But many perceiving themselves in financial hardship merely lack what they would like to have. Jesus taught that a man's life does not consist in covetousness but in every word from the mouth of God. Far better to be poor, sick, and meek-seeking for God-than to be proud and spiritually self-sufficient, which is to say, barren, cut off from God. Father is the source of all abundance, and delights to provide all that we truly need which does not at the same time interfere with the progress of our souls.
When the kingdom of heaven is our goal of existence, material considerations are relegated to proper subordination. Life inevitably involves suffering, but for those who can see Father's greater purposes behind the veil, he offers sustaining inner peace which enables us to rise above any deprivation that might come our way.
God is inherently kind, naturally compassionate, and everlastingly merciful. And never is it necessary that any influence be brought to bear upon the Father to call forth his loving-kindness. The creature's need is wholly sufficient to insure the full flow of the Father's tender mercies and his saving grace. (2:4.2)
"I have surely seen the affliction of my people, I have heard their cry, and I know their sorrows." For "the Lord looks from heaven; he beholds all the sons of men; from the place of his habitation he looks upon all the inhabitants of the earth." Every creature child may truly say: "He knows the way I take, and when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." "God knows our downsittings and our uprisings; he understands our thoughts afar off and is acquainted with all our ways." "All things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do." And it should be a real comfort to every human being to understand that "he knows your frame; he remembers that you are dust." Jesus, speaking of the living God, said, "Your Father knows what you have need of even before you ask him." (3:3.2)
All evolutionary creature life is beset by certain inevitabilities. Consider the following:
1. Is courage-strength of character-desirable? Then must man be reared in an environment which necessitates grappling with hardships and reacting to disappointments.
2. Is altruism-service of one's fellows-desirable? Then must life experience provide for encountering situations of social inequality.
3. Is hope-the grandeur of trust-desirable? Then human existence must constantly be confronted with insecurities and recurrent uncertainties.
4. Is faith-the supreme assertion of human thought-desirable? Then must the mind of man find itself in that troublesome predicament where it ever knows less than it can believe.
5. Is the love of truth and the willingness to go wherever it leads, desirable? Then must man grow up in a world where error is present and falsehood always possible.
6. Is idealism-the approaching concept of the divine-desirable? Then must man struggle in an environment of relative goodness and beauty, surroundings stimulative of the irrepressible reach for better things.
7. Is loyalty-devotion to highest duty-desirable? Then must man carry on amid the possibilities of betrayal and desertion. The valor of devotion to duty consists in the implied danger of default.
8. Is unselfishness-the spirit of self-forgetfulness-desirable? Then must mortal man live face to face with the incessant clamoring of an inescapable self for recognition and honor. Man could not dynamically choose the divine life if there were no self-life to forsake. Man could never lay saving hold on righteousness if there were no potential evil to exalt and differentiate the good by contrast.
9. Is pleasure-the satisfaction of happiness-desirable? Then must man live in a world where the alternative of pain and the likelihood of suffering are ever-present experiential possibilities. (3:5.5-14)
The mortal mind can immediately think of a thousand and one things-catastrophic physical events, appalling accidents, horrific disasters, painful illnesses, and world-wide scourges-and ask whether such visitations are correlated in the unknown maneuvering of this probable functioning of the Supreme Being. Frankly, we do not know; we are not really sure. But we do observe that, as time passes, all these difficult and more or less mysterious situations always work out for the welfare and progress of the universes. (10:7.5)
The confusion and turmoil of Urantia do not signify that the Paradise Rulers lack either interest or ability to manage affairs differently. The Creators are possessed of full power to make Urantia a veritable paradise, but such an Eden would not contribute to the development of those strong, noble, and experienced characters which the Gods are so surely forging out on your world between the anvils of necessity and the hammers of anguish. Your anxieties and sorrows, your trials and disappointments, are just as much a part of the divine plan on your sphere as are the exquisite perfection and infinite adaptation of all things to their supreme purpose on the worlds of the central and perfect universe. (23:2.5)
The last rest of time has been enjoyed; the last transition sleep has been experienced; now you awake to life everlasting on the shores of the eternal abode. "And there shall be no more sleep. The presence of God and his Son are before you, and you are eternally his servants; you have seen his face, and his name is your spirit. There shall be no night there; and they need no light of the sun, for the Great Source and Center gives them light; they shall live forever and ever. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things have passed away." (27:1.5)
When the heights of perfection and eternity are attained, all the more honor to those who began at the bottom and joyfully climbed the ladder of life, round by round, and who, when they do reach the heights of glory, will have gained a personal experience which embodies an actual knowledge of every phase of life from the bottom to the top.
In all this is shown the wisdom of the Creators. It would be just as easy for the Universal Father to make all mortals perfect beings, to impart perfection by his divine word. But that would deprive them of the wonderful experience of the adventure and training associated with the long and gradual inward climb, an experience to be had only by those who are so fortunate as to begin at the very bottom of living existence. (32:3.10-11)
While it is all too true that good cannot come of evil to the one who contemplates and performs evil, it is equally true that all things (including evil, potential and manifest) work together for good to all beings who know God, love to do his will, and are ascending Paradiseward according to his eternal plan and divine purpose. (54:4.7)
We are a part of a gigantic creation, and it is not strange that everything does not work in perfection; our universe was not created in perfection. Perfection is our eternal goal, not our origin. (75:8.6)
[Thought Adjusters] are not interested in making the mortal career easy; rather are they concerned in making your life reasonably difficult and rugged, so that decisions will be stimulated and multiplied. The presence of a great Thought Adjuster does not bestow ease of living and freedom from strenuous thinking, but such a divine gift should confer a sublime peace of mind and a superb tranquillity of spirit.
Your transient and ever-changing emotions of joy and sorrow are in the main purely human and material reactions to your internal psychic climate and to your external material environment. Do not, therefore, look to the Adjuster for selfish consolation and mortal comfort. It is the business of the Adjuster to prepare you for the eternal adventure, to assure your survival. It is not the mission of the Mystery Monitor to smooth your ruffled feelings or to minister to your injured pride; it is the preparation of your soul for the long ascending career that engages the attention and occupies the time of the Adjuster. (108:5.5-6)
The endowment of imperfect beings with freedom entails inevitable tragedy, and it is the nature of the perfect ancestral Deity to universally and affectionately share these sufferings in loving companionship. (110:0.1)
Uncertainty with security is the essence of the Paradise adventure-uncertainty in time and in mind, uncertainty as to the events of the unfolding Paradise ascent; security in spirit and in eternity, security in the unqualified trust of the creature son in the divine compassion and infinite love of the Universal Father; uncertainty as an inexperienced citizen of the universe; security as an ascending son in the universe mansions of an all-powerful, all-wise, and all-loving Father.
May I admonish you to heed the distant echo of the Adjuster's faithful call to your soul? The indwelling Adjuster cannot stop or even materially alter your career struggle of time; the Adjuster cannot lessen the hardships of life as you journey on through this world of toil. The divine indweller can only patiently forbear while you fight the battle of life as it is lived on your planet; but you could, if you only would-as you work and worry, as you fight and toil-permit the valiant Adjuster to fight with you and for you. You could be so comforted and inspired, so enthralled and intrigued, if you would only allow the Adjuster constantly to bring forth the pictures of the real motive, the final aim, and the eternal purpose of all this difficult, uphill struggle with the commonplace problems of your present material world.
Why do you not aid the Adjuster in the task of showing you the spiritual counterpart of all these strenuous material efforts? Why do you not allow the Adjuster to strengthen you with the spiritual truths of cosmic power while you wrestle with the temporal difficulties of creature existence? Why do you not encourage the heavenly helper to cheer you with the clear vision of the eternal outlook of universal life as you gaze in perplexity at the problems of the passing hour? Why do you refuse to be enlightened and inspired by the universe viewpoint while you toil amidst the handicaps of time and flounder in the maze of uncertainties which beset your mortal life journey? Why not allow the Adjuster to spiritualize your thinking, even though your feet must tread the material paths of earthly endeavor? (111:7.1-3)
Most of what a mortal would call providential is not; his judgment of such matters is very handicapped by lack of farsighted vision into the true meanings of the circumstances of life. Much of what a mortal would call good luck might really be bad luck; the smile of fortune that bestows unearned leisure and undeserved wealth may be the greatest of human afflictions; the apparent cruelty of a perverse fate that heaps tribulation upon some suffering mortal may in reality be the tempering fire that is transmuting the soft iron of immature personality into the tempered steel of real character. (118:10.9)
"Mother-Mary, sorrow will not help us; we are all doing our best, and mother's smile, perchance, might even inspire us to do better. Day by day we are strengthened for these tasks by our hope of better days ahead." [Jesus'] sturdy and practical optimism was truly contagious; all the children lived in an atmosphere of anticipation of better times and better things. And this hopeful courage contributed mightily to the development of strong and noble characters, in spite of the depressiveness of their poverty.
Jesus possessed the ability effectively to mobilize all his powers of mind, soul, and body on the task immediately in hand. He could concentrate his deep-thinking mind on the one problem which he wished to solve, and this, in connection with his untiring patience, enabled him serenely to endure the trials of a difficult mortal existence-to live as if he were "seeing Him who is invisible." (127:3.14-15)
Jesus is rapidly becoming a man, not just a young man but an adult. He has learned well to bear responsibility. He knows how to carry on in the face of disappointment. He bears up bravely when his plans are thwarted and his purposes temporarily defeated. He has learned how to be fair and just even in the face of injustice. He is learning how to adjust his ideals of spiritual living to the practical demands of earthly existence. He is learning how to plan for the achievement of a higher and distant goal of idealism while he toils earnestly for the attainment of a nearer and immediate goal of necessity. He is steadily acquiring the art of adjusting his aspirations to the commonplace demands of the human occasion. He has very nearly mastered the technique of utilizing the energy of the spiritual drive to turn the mechanism of material achievement. He is slowly learning how to live the heavenly life while he continues on with the earthly existence. More and more he depends upon the ultimate guidance of his heavenly Father while he assumes the fatherly role of guiding and directing the children of his earth family. He is becoming experienced in the skillful wresting of victory from the very jaws of defeat; he is learning how to transform the difficulties of time into the triumphs of eternity. (127:6.12)
"Do not forcibly resist injustice; put not your trust in the arm of the flesh. If your neighbor smites you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Be willing to suffer injustice rather than to go to law among yourselves. In kindness and with mercy minister to all who are in distress and in need.
"I say to you: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who despitefully use you. And whatsoever you believe that I would do to men, do you also to them."
Jesus portrayed conquest by sacrifice, the sacrifice of pride and selfishness. By showing mercy, he meant to portray spiritual deliverance from all grudges, grievances, anger, and the lust for selfish power and revenge. And when he said, "Resist not evil," he later explained that he did not mean to condone sin or to counsel fraternity with iniquity. He intended the more to teach forgiveness, to "resist not evil treatment of one's personality, evil injury to one's feelings of personal dignity." (141:3.8)
"But of one thing you may be sure: The Father does not send affliction as an arbitrary punishment for wrongdoing. The imperfections and handicaps of evil are inherent; the penalties of sin are inevitable; the destroying consequences of iniquity are inexorable. Man should not blame God for those afflictions which are the natural result of the life which he chooses to live; neither should man complain of those experiences which are a part of life as it is lived on this world. It is the Father's will that mortal man should work persistently and consistently toward the betterment of his estate on earth. . . .
"Do not doubt the love of the Father just because some just and wise law of his ordaining chances to afflict you because you have innocently or deliberately transgressed such a divine ordinance." (148:5.3-4)
"'The eternal God is your refuge, while underneath are the everlasting arms.' . . . 'He knows your body; he remembers that you are dust.' 'He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.' 'He is the hope of the poor, the strength of the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, and a shadow from the devastating heat.' 'He gives power to the faint, and to them who have no might he increases strength.' 'A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax he will not quench.' 'When you pass through the waters of affliction, I will be with you, and when the rivers of adversity overflow you, I will not forsake you.' 'He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to comfort all who mourn.'" (148:5.5)
Teach all believers to avoid leaning upon the insecure props of false sympathy. You cannot develop strong characters out of the indulgence of self-pity; honestly endeavor to avoid the deceptive influence of mere fellowship in misery. Extend sympathy to the brave and courageous while you withhold overmuch pity from those cowardly souls who only halfheartedly stand up before the trials of living. Offer not consolation to those who lie down before their troubles without a struggle. Sympathize not with your fellows merely that they may sympathize with you in return. . . .
Teach all believers that those who enter the kingdom are not thereby rendered immune to the accidents of time or to the ordinary catastrophes of nature. Believing the gospel will not prevent getting into trouble, but it will insure that you shall be unafraid when trouble does overtake you. If you dare to believe in me and wholeheartedly proceed to follow after me, you shall most certainly by so doing enter upon the sure pathway to trouble. I do not promise to deliver you from the waters of adversity, but I do promise to go with you through all of them. (159:3.11-13)
"Let not your hearts be troubled; all things will work together for the glory of God and the salvation of men." (182:2.1)
When thinking men and women look upon Jesus as he offers up his life on the cross, they will hardly again permit themselves to complain at even the severest hardships of life, much less at petty harassments and their many purely fictitious grievances. His life was so glorious and his death so triumphant that we are all enticed to a willingness to share both. There is true drawing power in the whole bestowal of Michael, from the days of his youth to this overwhelming spectacle of his death on the cross. (188:5.10)
To Jesus, mortal life had dealt its hardest, cruelest, and bitterest blows; and this man met these ministrations of despair with faith, courage, and the unswerving determination to do his Father's will. Jesus met life in all its terrible reality and mastered it-even in death. He did not use religion as a release from life. The religion of Jesus does not seek to escape this life in order to enjoy the waiting bliss of another existence. The religion of Jesus provides the joy and peace of another and spiritual existence to enhance and ennoble the life which men now live in the flesh. (194:3.3)
Pentecost endowed mortal man with the power to forgive personal injuries, to keep sweet in the midst of the gravest injustice, to remain unmoved in the face of appalling danger, and to challenge the evils of hate and anger by the fearless acts of love and forbearance. (194:3.12)