12. Aborting Affliction

26 03 2018

Chapter 11: Aborting Affliction

— “Affliction” by Edith Schaeffer, 1978.

(Part 12 of 13 posts)

This chapter had such important things to think about especially considering the rapid way that culture is shifting and becoming more and more confusing; especially as we are experiencing the accelerated erosion of our physical world; and especially as we move into the grey in almost every area of life, thinking we are wise and yet experiencing a nagging anxiety that we might not be.

“There is a twentieth-century smog, as formerly ‘unthinkable’ ideas are exchanged for a new set of thinkable ones. In many ways the former acceptable ideas are like fresh, sweet, spring air, compared with the heavily polluted, foggy, smoggy air of the new ones. People are being affected with ‘breathing problems’ in their minds! Their thinking is simply all fogged up and unclear, and a new set of choices is thrust upon human beings who aren’t equipped to argue or set forth an alternative set. We need to do some pretty serious and concentrated sifting of ideas and we need an absolute standard with which to compare them. Our little ships are going to crash on the rocks if we don’t construct some lighthouses where the old ones have been torn down! It’s as if some giant hand has gone through all the dangerous waters and removed all the buoys and lighthouses, so that new ships with young captains would surely be wrecked” (211).

Doesn’t that just describe it? I feel this acutely.

To make her point, Edith explores our attitudes towards the quality of our lives and what we believe we deserve or have a right to experience.  She addresses abortion as her example. If we believe we do not deserve to have to carry a life, deliver it and tend to it in some way,  women in many parts of the world can decide to abort a pregnancy. The chapter isn’t really about abortion (I know this is a complicated and layered issue), but rather the ramifications of decisions we make like this — aborting anything and everything that is inconvenient. She writes,

“The casual attitude toward aborting a fetus has been expanded into the area of commonly accepting the aborting of anything that is a bother, a burden, a heavy work, or a hindrance to whatever kind of freedom an individual wants to pursue by ‘starting a new life’ in some other direction” (212).

Suffering is undesirable. No one chooses what is behind that door. No one, if given the option, would choose that path.  Therefore, if given the freedom to, we will tend to do whatever it takes to alleviate our suffering. But with that seemingly “easy way out” is also the bypassing of something that is the “good” that comes with walking through a trial and often an entry-way into something worse or harder. Edith writes,

“Affliction — with the various purposes that can be fulfilled through affliction and what it can mean in our lives — is then also to be aborted. If affliction and tribulation are to be aborted, then also are aborted patience, steadfastness, experience, and hope. If these things follow tribulation then they will also be cancelled out” (212).

And, more serious still, is the the dangerous position of a human making decisions that are meant for God. To this one issue — the beginning and ending of a life, whether it is very new or very old — we are relying only on a short-sighted, narrowly informed human wisdom and this is “astonishingly and frighteningly egotistic” (213). Who do we think we are to exercise such a decision?

Knowing this was published in the late seventies gives it a rather prophetic feel. Edith imagines a government providing a building where one could commit suicide. This was suggested in Sweden in her time, and she asks “Can you imagine that?” Well…what can we say? This is our reality now. She warned back then that this would put into existence a temptation that would be “too heavy for human beings to face” (217). She questions,

“Who of us can trust all our motives, moment by moment, day in and day out, week by week, month by month? Who of us can completely trust our motives for the now, let alone the tomorrow for ourselves and all those whom we are in some way responsible for? Who does not go up and down in some measure in wisdom and sensitivity and unselfishness, if not in other basic qualities involved with such decisions?” (217)

Edith warns that we are easily twisted by a diseased perspective — think of how easy it was to tempt Eve into stepping away from what she knew! This “off” perspective becomes a cancerous growth, “causing our minds to be malfunctioning in relationship to true Truth. We can…suddenly be floating on the tide of the ‘new thinkables’ so that our feet are no longer on the solid ground of our island after all…” (217).

When we choose to abort affliction with the effort we do, we have to also abort the word responsibility from our vocabulary because now it becomes about our right to be trouble-free on every level of our personal lives. Now it is about us and we must stand up for ourselves and  “the further we live from what the Word of God teaches, the closer we are to being useful to Satan in muddling people up and keeping them from seeing any contrast or difference at all” (219) between right and wrong, life and death.

This is where that slippery slope leads: When we stop wanting to put up with affliction, we will also stop wanting to put up with one another, saying, “Let’s abort the togetherness and the continuity of life” (220).

She writes about this so meaningfully:

“Continuity is the precious thing that is lost when one starts following the will-o’the-‘wisp of fairy light through the moor s and hills looking for ‘perfection’ in whatever terms one might define it. And life is so very, very short, that there is scarcely time to build up that continuity in one lifetime. Continuity needs to be protected and worked upon, and a terrific variety of things takes place in the doing of that.” (220)

God is calling us to something else. He is calling us to be patient in affliction. He is calling us to not let go of love and trust when we are pressed. Love is patient. In the King James version it says that love “suffereth long.” What we need to know about love is that “it is willing to suffer some kind of affliction, some kind of tribulation. Everything can’t be ‘perfect’. There have to be real incidents, real moments, where one’s own desires are put aside for another person…” (221).

We ought not to “abort” our time of trial, seeking comfort above all else! Seeking transitory happiness no matter the compromise of God’s better way.

“Many times, people abort the work which God has led them to do, as definitely as though they had aborted life itself. They have aborted the affliction of doing something they felt was too hard, too dull, to exacting, too demanding, tied them down too much, or was too dangerous, as they turned to life that was entirely of their own will or desire. The only real difference between that and suicide is that there is still time to repent and to tell the Lord so, and then have another section of life to give to Him. He can take us right where we are and unfold a path that is His will, from that place on, if we turn back, let go of the determination to have what we are demanding, and ask, ‘Show me Thy way, Lord,’ with the intent to do His will… 225

Aren’t those “hard” words?  They should make us pause and ask why she used the word “suicide” in this paragraph — it is jarring!  Yet, there is something truthful about it. We have become very good at aborting affliction, aborting assignments, leaving, ending, escaping, exiting, transitioning, opting out, stepping away. What do you call stopping a good thing God is wanting to do? Spiritual suicide is not that far off, as far as descriptions go. We don’t even know what work it has killed in us and in our world.

When we keep aborting hard or unwanted assignments, the work that is to make us solid is aborted too. Edith writes, “There is a danger of not being real” if we skirt around what is making us real, beautiful, and polished. She compares a life that chooses to walk through, instead of around hardship, to a beautifully crafted piece of authentically fine furniture in the making: “Make me solid wood, Lord, not veneer!” (226)

Do we believe we are walking through tough times alone? Then no wonder we freak out and make all sorts of short-sighted decisions!  Yet our Good Father calls us to patient endurance, saying, “Through faith you are shielded by God’s power until the day coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have suffered grief in all kinds of trials.” 1 Peter 1:3-6

We all need to stop. Breathe. Sit with Jesus and take stock of what is going on. Listen well to what He is saying and accept the unexpected peace He offers in the middle of a fiery time. The good He offers, the directions He gives here, is better than any good we can conceive of on our own.

“Our abnormal world reflects the spoiled physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual condition. Contrast that with the eternity in which we will find complete healing, restoration, and possession of all the faculties which God meant us to have. The quality of life that awaits us is so completely different from the quality of life we can now have in our spoiled condition that there would be no words to describe the contrast.” (215)

Friend and fellow sojourner — let’s hold on to the hand of our God and find refuge in Him. Let’s seek Him out and not abort our situations. Let’s let Him make us and our lives and our future into something we couldn’t have made ourselves.

— Teresa Klassen




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