Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.
What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.
Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
This passage from Nouwen seems to reflect very accurately what I was saying in my last post, about the practical outworkings of what St Paul says in Romans 8:28, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
If we will only trust him, God will “[work] with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and [turn] everything to their good” (Romans 8:28 NJB). We cannot choose our circumstances. Ultimately, much as we may try, and however much we try to convince ourselves, we are not the masters of our fate, nor the captains of our souls. But we do have this choice, to pray or not to pray.
Faith comes by prayer, I think. Certainly it is a gift and not an accomplishment. But to pray at all is a kind of trust, however desperate. It may be the last shred left of trust—certainly it was for me at the darkest times last year—but it is trust, and in that naked remnant God can work, will work. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, ““To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ.”