“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
― John Green, Looking for Alaska
SUFFERING proves to be an overwhelming maze of not only pain, but also of inescapability. The worst of thoughts is that the pain and inescapability could both prove to be fatal, not least of the spirit, as the soul seems to die by the day. Of course, these are thoughts very reminiscent of hopelessness, of loss of vision, of desperation, and aberrant lostness. There is no irony lost in the coincidence of suffering and hopelessness. These convergent poles tend us toward despair.
Being in the labyrinth of suffering might seem a curse, but we are blessed by this knowledge: there has to be a purpose in it. And of all purposes that we can find, the purpose of learning forgiveness strikes the consciousness to the point of us contemplating it.
Sometimes we might ask what is there to forgive; perhaps it’s the person, or maybe it’s a situation, or possibly it is God we need to forgive. God knows we need such an experience – to experience his grace in offering our submission so that we might be healed. These concepts are not cliché. They are real and powerful and urgent in truth.
Navigating out of the labyrinth of suffering is limited only by these aspects of reconciliation, for forgiveness is all about reconciling our situations. Reconciliation is about acceptance, not that we need to agree with God that what is happening to us is a good thing. God knows it’s a horrible thing and he needs no convincing. But this thing has happened to us in any event. There has to be a way of reconciling it.
Reconciliation, in these ways, is about surrendering the fight. We may have fought an angry or depressed fight for acceptance against denial, or we may have fought a despairing battle for meaning. These are only two possibilities. Reality is endless in possibilities. This is why one person’s reality can never be the same as another person’s reality, no matter how much we pretend it is.
Only we ourselves can negotiate this treacherous path through the labyrinth of suffering.
Nobody can do it for us. And nobody can show us exactly how to forgive. It is God’s personal assignment of us, and we need to have the faith that there is a way; and that that way is possible for us. We will need lots of loving support.
Only we ourselves can negotiate this treacherous path through the labyrinth of suffering. Glib responses of others cannot possibly help, but the King of Glory can. We need loving, empathic, caring support; pastoral leadership that works maturely and that models acceptance and reconciliation. In the end we will find that navigating out of the labyrinth of suffering is dependent on forgiveness.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.