Wednesday, April 4, 2012

beside the everlasting why


Way back when I was a teenager, I'd very much enjoyed a film by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory called A Room with a View. It was a beautiful, brilliant adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel of the same name, and starred many British acting greats, including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Daniel Day-Lewis, and a very young, very pretty Helena Bonham Carter. It also starred a very swoonworthy Julian Sands, who unfortunately, despite his excellent turn in this movie, went on to star in such dubious things as Arachnophobia, Boxing Helena, and (hm) Smallville.

Well anyway, there was this one part in the film that made a great impression on me at the time (I mean, greater than the other parts that also made a great impression). The scene takes place, I believe, in the Church of Santa Croce. There, Lucy Honeychurch meets the elder Mr Emerson. Both of them start walking together, and then they see Mr Emerson's son George further off, ingeniously putting off an annoying local touter.

Mr Emerson says to Lucy, "My poor boy has brains, but he's very muddled... I don't require you to fall in love with my boy, but please try to help him. If anyone can stop him from brooding... and on what? The things of the Universe. I don't believe in this 'world sorrow', do you? Make my boy realise that at the side of the everlasting 'Why?', there is a 'Yes', and a 'Yes', and a 'YES'!"

For some reason, those words stuck in my head, even as teenager, perhaps because I was a little like George. That "world sorrow" Mr Emerson speaks of, comes, I think, from the German Weltschmerz, which, broadly speaking, refers to one's sadness over the evils of the world. As a child, I had something of that, and I too was continually brooding and asking "Why?". This continued into adulthood, but of course, even as an adult, there is no intellectually satisfying answer.

Strangely, I would periodically recall that scene from the movie, and I did so again just recently. Then this morning, as I read my Bible, I found this:

"For the Son of God, Christ Jesus (the Messiah), Who has been preached among you by us, by myself, Silvanus, and Timothy, was not Yes and No; but in Him it is [always the divine] Yes.

"For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their Yes [answer] in Him [Christ]. For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him [in His Person and by His agency] to the glory of God" (2 Cor 19-20, italics mine).

Intellectually, I was somehow always stuck at the "everlasting 'Why?'". For uncertainty and not knowing can sometimes drive one crazy... If I felt I had come to some sort of conclusion about an issue, that I'd reasoned it out or got my head wrapped around it, I'd feel better, perhaps deriving comfort from being "in control". But the reality was, I still knew nothing; the fact remains that one cannot have any certainty about anything however much one broods and reasons and thinks.

Since growing in my faith, however, God has lifted me out of that pit. The Bible tells us to "stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life... who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life?" (Matt 6:25-27).

"[Cast] the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully" (1 Peter 5:7). I remember Joyce Meyer saying once that faith does require some unanswered questions.

I've realised that in order to live at all sanely, if not victoriously, one simply has to stop questioning and asking "Why?" -- one has to accept that one cannot know, but it is enough to know the One who does. So I will have confidence, and put my trust and reliance in God, and press on in faith, realising at last that "at the side of the everlasting 'Why?', there is a 'Yes', and a 'Yes', and a 'YES'!"


Beth said...

Hello, Janice. I'm so glad I came over to visit your blog because this post is exactly what I needed to read. We've had so many difficult things happen to us in the last few years, and I've wondered Why God has allowed our family to suffer so. Your post is a wonderful reminder to me to keep my eyes fixed on the light and my mind and heart focused on the Yes. You are a wonderful writer, and I plan to go back and read all your pieces about the Christian life. Thank you for writing these, and thank you for coming to my blog. I'm sorry you're still having pain from your intercostal nerves---so do I at times. Perhaps we can pray for each other?

Amy said...

beautiful. just what I've been thinking lately. xo!


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