Monday, September 21, 2009

The Agony of Contradictions*

(*Things that appear to be incompatabile)

So much of our pain seems to arise out of the contradictions of our lives. We expect God to manifest in a certain way, and then He does a Biblical “Job” on us and we, like suffering Job, cry out, “I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction” (Job 10:15).

But surviving contradiction seems mandatory to salvation. Promises made, then delayed;[1] commandments given, then exempted by a superseding command;[2] faithful souls suffering at the hands of enemies, traumas, or an inexplicably silent God;[3] faithful people in all corners of the world suffering their various trials of contradiction.

The epitome of one who suffered contradiction was the Son of God himself.
… the Son, … ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh, and descended in suffering below that which man can suffer; or, in other words, suffered greater sufferings, and was exposed to more powerful contradictions [emphasis added] than any man can be. But, notwithstanding all this, he kept the law of God, and remained without sin, … (Lectures on Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 5:2.)

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction [emphasis added] of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (New Testament Hebrews 12:2-3).
I believe that the contradictions of our lives are designed to test us in the three necessities: faith, hope, and charity (Moroni 10:21). Will we choose faith in the midst of fearful circumstances, hope in the midst of seeming hopelessness, and charity in the midst of persecutions, oppressions, and injustice? In other words, we will be given opportunities to choose and to develop faith, hope, and charity in the midst of pain, suffering, and contradiction. It is truly a world of opposites; the only kind of world where meaningful choice is possible; where
… men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 2:27).
Contradiction in the realm of spiritual things is not something we seem to acknowledge very much, but as it is central to our experiences in this world, wouldn’t our trials and sufferings be more bearable (endurable) if we recognized the centrality of contradiction and the indispensable role it plays in forcing us to confront the necessities of faith, hope, and charity?

[1] read Hebrews 11; also includes promises in Patriarchal Blessings.
[2] Abraham to sacrifice his son; Nephi to slay an unconscious Laban, etc.
[3] Alma’s flight from wicked king Noah, only to be enslaved by his former “priestly” colleagues in alliance with the enemy Lamanites (Book of Mormon); faithful Job, faithful Daniel, faithful Paul, faithful martyrs by the hundreds, faithful Mother Teresa (Come Be My Light), and countless others.