作者 | Kenny Pierce
翻译 | 舒舒（Kenny的太太）
我不希望被误解—苦难对每一个人来说都很可怕，对基督徒也一样。但是，基督徒知道在苦难中上帝在做最伟大的工作，如果上帝没有打算通过苦难带给祂的子民更大的好处，祂就不会允许苦难降临在他们身上。总有一天，信靠上帝的人会发现上帝经由苦难而赐下的祝福，那一天，他们会因曾受的苦而欣喜。如Rachael Lampa所唱：“我知道上帝不会浪费我的痛苦。” 我们知道，上帝呼召祂的追随者与祂一起承受苦难，我们每个人早晚都要面对自己的“客希马尼”（注：耶稣被门徒犹大出卖被捕之地）。由于我们现在无法看清所承受的苦难到底有怎样的意义，这让我们的路走得很辛苦。如果我们刚刚成为基督徒，我们的直觉和情绪都还没有被好好地训练，我们通常会“感觉”到根本不存在任何一种目的会使我们的苦难变得有价值有意义。情绪是非常难以驾驭的东西，而苦难……终究是苦难二字啊，是痛苦的，是骇人的。但是，靠着信心，靠着上帝的话语，以及最重要的，靠着主耶稣基督的死里复活，我们要记住：上帝的旨意永远在那里，上帝的旨意一定会被成就，带给我们终极的喜乐。尽管我们时常会遭受情绪的猛烈打击，我们还是清楚地知道使徒保罗所说的千真万确：“如果我们和他一同受苦，也必合他一同得荣耀。”（罗马书8:17） 紧接着在下一节经文中他又说道：“我想现在的苦楚，若比起将来要显于我们的荣耀，就不足介意了。”
但我是谁呢？我有什么资格对那些在极大痛苦中的人说这些呢？我一生中都很健康；不知饥饿为何物；对身体上的疼痛只是略有所知；尽管不配，如今我还娶到一位可爱且虔诚爱主的妻子；我有九个孩子，三个外孙和外孙女，他们身体都很健康；我的父母正要庆祝他们的结婚五十周年纪念日——我，凭什么对一个癌症末期的病人、或一个刚刚埋葬独子的人说，“会好的，会好的，一切都会好起来的”（好像上帝对 Lady Julian所说）……不，我不能够。对那些正在苦难之中的人，我只能将他们的目光指向那许许多多的前辈，他们踏过痛苦的荆棘之路，寻找到了最终的欢乐与荣耀。我只能让他们望向Corrie ten Boom①、Sheldon Vanauken②、还有使徒彼得、保罗……最终，仰望耶稣他自己。
我想，我可以强调一点，也许会对大家有些帮助。让我们来回忆，在认识耶稣前，我们的信仰之旅从哪里开始。对大多数人来说，正因为要寻求一条逃避苦难的道路，他们才拾起信仰，欲躲避神明的忿怒，或祈求在挣扎中得到他们的帮助。想象一下吧，一个基督徒开始解释耶稣是这样对祂的门徒们说话：“如果有人想做我的门徒，他就得舍己，背起他的十字架跟从我。” 绝大多数非基督徒最迅速最本能的反应会是：“那么，你的意思是基督信仰根本就是没有用的！” 如果基督徒的上帝不能治愈癌症，那么患者何必还要费力向祂祷告？如果祂可以治好癌症却选择不去医治，我们又该如何作想？？
现在我们要来看看，在理解了基督信仰的奥秘之后，我们的观点会有怎样的革新。当年使徒们因着传讲福音而被鞭挞，据路加的记载，“他们离开公会，心里欢喜。因被算是配为这名（指耶稣）受辱。” （使徒行传5:41）瞧，你看到这里的转变吗？人类对于苦难的自然反应是：上帝一定生我的气，所以他让我现在受苦。但是当年的使徒对于苦难的反应是：上帝一定赞许我、信任我，觉得我可以承受这苦。 在电影《重回我怀抱》（Return to Me）里面，虔诚的天主教徒Marty O’Reilly对他心碎的孙女Grace说，“上帝会把最重的担子交给最坚强的人，把你的难处当做一种恭维吧。”
不可知论者说上帝是虐待狂，这是不对的。他想象中的上帝不仅允许我们受苦受难，而且还将祂的快乐建立在我们的痛苦之上—-要不然祂为何不利用祂的全知全能为我们做点什么呢？这样的想法实在是大错特错。传统上，我们为遭难或悲伤者总是这样祷告：“哦，慈悲的天父，你的话语教导我们，你本不愿世人忧伤困苦……” 还记得约翰福音11章中讲到耶稣的朋友拿撒路的故事吗？上帝的旨意本就是允许拿撒路死去，然后祂才能从死亡中被唤起，并由此彰显上帝的大能。耶稣是知道这一切的，祂一直知道祂将要让拿撒路从死里复活；祂知道祂的父神将来会百倍千倍地偿还拿撒路、玛丽和玛大所受的痛苦；祂甚至没有立即去医治拿撒路，而是特地将去伯大尼的日期推迟了两天，这样拿撒路才有机会死去。 然而，还记得路加记载的吗？在那座马上就要空空如也的坟墓旁，耶稣做了什么？他哭泣了。站在一旁的人们都说，“你看，他是多么爱拿撒路啊！” 他们说得对，耶稣确实爱他。
我们更知道，到末了，只有两条路：一条通向地狱，一条通向十字架。我们已经被呼召“以基督的心为心……存心顺服，以至于死，且死在十字架上。”（腓力比书2：5, 8) 我们也知道十字架是通向荣耀复活之门，“所以 神将他升为至高，又赐给他那超乎万名之上的名“（腓力比书2：9）“死啊，你得胜的权势在哪里？死啊，你的毒钩在哪里？”(哥林多前书15：55)
献给遭难和悲伤者：选自《公祷书》（The book of Common Prayer）
①Corrie ten Boom: 1892年4月15日生于荷兰阿姆斯特丹,1983年4月15日去世于加利福利亚普拉森舍，Corrie是虔诚的基督徒，曾负责一个为脑功能障碍患者开放的教会，在家中也收养了很多孩子。二战中，Corrie和她的父亲及其他家庭成员一起接受犹太人躲在她的家中避难，从而逃过纳粹追捕。她与家人却均因此被纳粹逮捕。她的父亲被捕10天后去世，她的姐姐Betsie ten Boom 1944年在集中营去世，临终前她对Corrie说“苦难的坑再深，也深不过上帝的爱。”她的著作《藏身之处》（ The Hiding Place）被拍成电影。战后，Corrie被邀请至世界各地演讲，分享她在集中营的遭遇和靠着上帝的爱而生发的饶恕。
②Sheldon Vanauken： (1914年8月4日—1996年10月28日)美国著名作家，最出名的书是他的自传《A Severe Mercy》（1977年出版），书中回忆他和太太与英国文豪C.S.Lewis的友谊以及他们关于基督信仰和如何面对苦难悲剧的对话，此书也将被拍成电影。Sheldon与他的妻子Davy两人深深相爱，誓与彼此相伴终身，而且决定两人要分享所有的一切，甚至决定不要孩子以防孩子抢夺了任何一方的爱。他们在遇见C.S.Lewis之后被他的智慧和幽默吸引。Davy首先皈依基督，Sheldon感觉耶稣成了他们爱情的第三者，虽然心不情愿甚至带着恨意，他也被迫接受了基督信仰。随后Davy在1955年因病逝世，那时他们结婚有17年了。悲痛欲绝的Sheldon在C.S.Lewis的帮助下真正认识了上帝和基督耶稣。他终身没有再娶。
Some Highly Inadequate Words on Suffering
My wife, from time to time, brings me questions that cancer patients ask her. She has a touching faith in my wisdom — entirely misplaced, but touching. I myself always think of C. S. Lewis’s imagined conversation with George MacDonald in The Great Divorce:
“But could one dare — could one have the face — to go to a bereaved mother, in her misery — when one’s not bereaved oneself?…”
“No, no, Son, that’s no office of yours. You’re not a good enough man for that. When your own heart’s been broken it will be time for you to think of talking.”
I am not a good enough man to talk of the mystery of suffering; nor have I suffered enough. I offer these few thoughts, unworthy as they are, simply because my wife has asked for my best, such as it is; and her service, and the remarkably brave hearts of the cancer patients she serves, are worthy of my best answer, however unworthy my best answer may be.
God’s purposes in suffering are, to my mind, among the greatest and deepest mysteries of the Christian faith; and nothing sets real Christianity apart from natural religion more deeply than the Christian attitude toward suffering. To enter into the mind of Christ is to find your view of death and suffering undergoing a profound transformation. It is a transformation that causes the saints to desire the day of death like the coming of a long-lost though never-yet-met lover; yet nothing could be further from the truth than to say that the saints are suicidal, for they have an unquenchable love of life and of those around them – and indeed, we Christians’ eagerness for death springs not from a hatred of life or from a desire for oblivion, but from our thirst for the unimaginably greater life of whose mansion Death is the doorkeeper. It is a transformation that brings the mature Christian to a place of sincerely rejoicing in sufferings; yet the sufferings are no less terrifying in prospect and no less painful in reality, and those who accuse Christians of masochism simply show that they cannot begin to imagine the lens through which we Christians see the world.
I do not wish to be misunderstood — suffering remains terrible to the Christian, as it is for everyone else. What the Christian knows is that God does His mightiest work in the sufferings of His saints, that God allows no suffering that He does not intend to bring great good out of, and that any Christian who endures suffering will one day, upon seeing what God has brought out of that suffering, rejoice to have suffered. As Rachael Lampa sings, “I know that God will never waste my pain.” That God calls His followers to suffer, we know; we all sooner or later will face our own personal Gethsemane. That we cannot at present imagine what purpose much of the suffering we see could possibly serve, certainly makes the path harder to walk. And, especially if we have only just recently become Christians and our instincts and emotions are still largely untrained, we very often feel that there can be no purpose that could justify such pain. Emotions are unruly things, and suffering is…well, it is suffering, it is pain, it is awful. Yet we know by faith and by the Word of God and (most of all) by the Resurrection of Our Lord that God’s purpose is always there and will always be fulfilled, to our ultimate joy. However our emotions may batter us, we still know that what St. Paul has said is true: we share in the sufferings of Christ so that we can also share in His glory (Romans 8:17). As he goes on to say in the very next verse, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.”
But who am I to say such things to those in agony? I, who have enjoyed excellent health throughout my life, who have never known hunger and rarely and only briefly known agonizing physical pain, I who today find myself married to a delightful and godly woman whom I do not deserve, I who have nine children and three grandchildren all in excellent health and have just seen my parents celebrate their fiftieth year together — who am I to tell someone who is in the last stages of cancer, or who has just buried her only child, that “all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well” (as the Lord said to Lady Julian)? I cannot. I can only point those who suffer now, to those who have gone before us and trod the path of pain, and found it, in the end, a path to joy and glory. I can only point them to Corrie ten Boom, to Sheldon Vanauken, to Dante Alighieri, to St Peter and St Paul…and ultimately, to Christ Himself.
I can, however, highlight one thing helpful, I think. It is useful to remember where we start, before we know Jesus. Religion has started, for the majority of mankind, precisely as a way to keep from suffering, to avert the wrath of the gods and to enlist their help in our struggles.Imagine that a Christian starts explaining that Jesus tells His disciples, “If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me.” For most non-Christians, the immediate and instinctive reaction is, “So you’re saying Christianity is useless.” If the Christian God can’t cure cancer, why should any cancer patient bother to pray to Him? And if the Christian God can cure cancer but chooses not to — what are we to make of that?
It’s not just that we don’t want to suffer. We naturally think, as well, that if God likes us, He wouldn’t want us to suffer either. We think that only a sadistic God would ask people He “loves” to suffer pointless pain. (Indeed, to an agnostic that seems the very definition of a sadist: someone who takes pleasure in hurting those he claims to love.) So the natural response that any of us have when catastrophe strikes us down without warning is the reaction Job had: we want to know what God thinks we have done to deserve this. My wife has herself been asked by more than one cancer patient, “What did I do that was so bad? Why is God punishing me like this?”
But here is how much the understanding of the Christian mystery revolutionizes our perspective: when the disciples were flogged for sharing the gospel, Luke records that they left the Sanhedrin “rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41). You see the revolution? Humanity’s natural response to suffering is to say, “God must be mad at me; He is making me suffer.” But the Apostles response to suffering was to say, “God must approve of me; He is trusting me with the task of suffering.” As devoutly Catholic Marty O’Reilly says to his heartbroken granddaughter Grace in the movie Return to Me, “It’s the strongest hearts that God gives the greatest burdens to. You can take this as a compliment.”
We know that it is a compliment, because we know the story of Jesus. I think it was Saint Augustine who said, “Deus unicum habet filium sine peccato, nullum sine flagella,” which I would translate, “God has only one Son who did not sin — but He has none at all who have not suffered agony.” The very Son of God, God Himself incarnate, came to earth for one sole purpose: to suffer and die for the world God loves. No one can say that God has an unrealistic, ivory-tower, purely theoretical understanding of pain – He has personally drunk the cup to the dregs and knows our suffering from the bitterest of experience.
The thing is, the agnostic who thinks that God is a sadist is wrong, because he imagines that God not only allows us to suffer, but actually takes pleasure in our pain – otherwise (so goes the reasoning) He would step in with all that Omnipotence of His and do something about it. And this is simply not the case. One traditional prayer for those in trouble or bereavement begins, “O merciful Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men…” Remember the story of Jesus’ friend Lazarus (John 11)? It was God’s purpose to allow Lazarus to die, in order that he could be raised from the dead to show the power of God. Jesus knew this; He knew all along that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead; He knew that His Father would repay Lazarus and Mary and Martha a thousand times over for what they had suffered; He even deliberately delayed going to Bethany for two days specifically for the purpose of giving Lazarus time to die instead of healing him immediately. Yet what does Luke say Jesus did as he stood at that soon-to-be-empty tomb?
He wept. And the people standing by said, “Look how much he loved Lazarus!” And they spoke in all truth.
For whatever reason, God’s purposes in this world cannot be achieved even by God Himself without suffering; and so He chooses to allow the suffering even though He is grieved by it. He knows full well the price of His purposes – He has paid it Himself. But He thinks the purpose is worth the price, not just to Himself but to those whom He has called, as well. We can be baffled by the mystery of how the Omnipotence could will into existence a world in which even He works under self-imposed constraints (though the artists among us are likely to find that rather less baffling than do the engineers). We can speculate as to why He might have such purposes. If we are philosophers we can wrestle with the interplay of omniscience and omnipotence and the freedom to constrain oneself all in the context of a timeless Deity who experiences all His works as a single eternal Act rather than as a succession of events, and we can ultimately come to agree with Augustine that “since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” But in the end we really don’t know what lies in the deepest heart of God’s purposes; it is a mystery we cannot penetrate. In the end we know only a few fundamental truths about the God Who loves us, about the God Who suffered for us, about the God in Whose sufferings we share — but if our heart clings to them with all the passion of faith, these few truths are all we need to know:
We know that in God’s judgment (and He surely knows better than we what is best), it was better to allow evil to exist and then bring good out of it, than not to allow it to exist in the first place. (But He will bring good out of it. There is no suffering that is not meant to end in glory beyond our imagining.)
Yet we know that He takes no pleasure in the evil or in the necessity for the suffering, and he weeps on our behalf as He sees our pain, like every loving father who has ever said to his little princess, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”
And we know that He plays by his own rules: He has laid on us no burden that He has not been willing to carry Himself; He calls us to no path of pain that He Himself has not already walked before us.
We know that in the end there are only two paths: the path that leads to Hell, and the path that leads to the Cross, and that we are called to “have the same mindset as Jesus, who humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Phil. 4:5, 8) But we know at the same time that the Cross is nothing but the door to Resurrection glory: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” (Phil 4:9) “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor 15:5)
And most of all, from Romans 8… “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Before you close the book / turn to the next chapter, will you join me in a prayer?
A Prayer for Those in Trouble or Bereavement
(adapted from The Book of Common Prayer)
O merciful Father, you have taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. Look with favor, we pray, on the sufferings of your servants. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy; nourish their souls with patience; comfort them with a sense of your goodness; lift up your countenance upon them; and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.