I came upon a conversation yesterday where some relatives and friends were discussing the mystery of “Why do so many bad things happen to good people?” and “Why is life so full of hardships?” Since this has been a persistent grief and exploration of mine for decades, I made the observation that I thought it was not such a mystery—that hardships are to break us of our attachments to the things of this world. If our unrelenting attachments are to things telestial / terrestrial isn’t that what we will inherit—a telestial or terrestrial sphere? Provided however, that everything telestial / terrestrial that is of eternal worth will be included in the celestial sphere. It’s just that we can’t become rigidly attached to anything here in this world.
A mother interjected fervently: “Except for our families.” In reflex, I agreed: “Except for our families.” But within minutes, I knew we were both wrong: that we cannot be stubbornly attached to anything here—not property, fame, wealth, ideas, philosophies, pleasures, convictions, expectations, people, etc.—not even beloved family members. I take my justification from Jesus’ words:
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (New Testament Matthew 10:37-39)If our attachment to something in this world (even family) is so great that we will not do or accept God’s will, however wrenching and seemingly unreasonable, then we will lose that thing we are so attached to, plus our life’s potential. Isn’t that the message of Abraham’s story concerning Isaac? But if we are prepared to give up (or accept) whatsoever He wills, then and only then shall we find “our life.”
That is not to say, we should not love and care deeply. To love and care is the second great commandment; but there is a first great commandment1 that takes priority when the two come into seeming conflict.
That’s the sense I make of why we continually encounter painful wedges between our attachments and our faith, hope, and charity. It is not an easy or welcome spiritual reality for most of us trying to navigate in this “rational” world, but as Jesus said:
... Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (New Testament Luke 18:29-30)And as Isaiah and Paul said:
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. (Old Testament Isaiah 64:4)What are our attachments? How many sharp wedges have we already endured to break us away from the limitations of this world? How many more will be required? How do we know and discern what is God's will for our individual lives?
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (New Testament 1 Corinthians 2:9)
1. New Testament Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.