Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jan van Ruysbroeck’s Heavenly Weal and Hellish Woe

FLEMISH mystic, Ruysbroeck (1293–1381), makes the point that there are highs and lows in the disciple’s experience; that deeper woes follow seasons of delighted weal, as weal comes to be transformed as gratitude outbound of woe. (Weal means prosperity or happiness.)
“In this woe, weal sometimes shows itself and brings with it a hope which none can gainsay.”
In other words, there’s a happiness possible in suffering which none can oppose or affect.
This is a faith that seems hardly rational in our day. We would rather have the right to complain. I speak personally. But our Lord has much more for us to learn and experience in the mournful delight of the character of his incarnation — to not only love as he loved, but to suffer as he suffered.
Deeper into the presence of what this faith is like, we can surmise these things:
1.     It’s not a victorious faith by any conventional means;
2.     It’s characterised by laments deeper and darker in the progression of life (which, of its own, is harrowing to ponder);
3.     It’s never more a God-willed life;
4.     And, finally, it’s a life that the devil fundamentally accuses.
The accusations of Satan are those which we’re to learn to bear and meekly refute in Jesus’ name.
To accept a will that seems not from God, but never more is, a will that seems heinous and harsh, is a humiliating pretext, but it’s also the final frontier. Pleasing God by faith is then the fullest nature of surrender we could ever contemplate. When pleasing God by faith becomes our everything, no adversity in life can conquer us. But that ‘when’ is never a permanent reality in this life; it’s what we strive for.
The progression of our laments into a deeper and more resolutely dark suffering should seem more a regression. But we’re being shown by the Holy Spirit to feel. Feeling reality should always be a profound experience and requires much strength. But there’s a paradoxical juxtaposition; feeling comes to be such a strength that we may feel as though our feelings are numb, but for the fact that we’re feeling all of what reality has for us to feel. Yet there’s still room for the deepest experience of lament. There will be something that God will use to sanctify us through suffering. Not because he’s vindictive, only because he’s got vision for our perfection in Christ.
The key, and the fullest answer to all woe is this: for the man or woman who no longer belongs to themselves but to God understands and accepts the good and perfect will of the Father of Lights. Even as it subsists in their misery. That very moment we’re brought to a smile in our suffering because we believe these things in the faith of Christ is the moment that Ruysbroeck says that we bring “heaven into hell, and hell into heaven.” We can safely say hell can no longer exist in heaven. Darkness is swallowed whole in the presence of light.
The “unmediated union with God” is saved for a special and uniquely-Jesus-travail.
To be immovable in pain without rebellion is to be at the pinnacle of God’s will.
To feel pain as Jesus felt it, the fullness of reality, is bearing the pain with acceptance. This is our objective and goal.
Our worship is never more real when we bear reality in a way that pleases God by faith.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

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