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
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
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?
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.
"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.
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)