Friday, December 17, 2010

The End of Suffering


I have recently finished reading The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain by Scott Cairns. This is my first exposure to the author, who has a lot to say in this small book.

For all our good intentions, our long-distracted crew--the ostensible followers of Christ--have squandered our diverse gifts over the centuries. We have even intermittently modified our theologies--lowering the bar of our expectations--time and time again to accommodate our failure to become what we are called to become. "No one is perfect," we repeat, smiling as we scribble our own doctor's excuse for the teacher.


Those of us who struggle with habitual sins--and we know who we are--are very likely to break our hearts over the business of turning away from those chronic mark missings. Our problems with recurring sin, and the more general human problem of being enslaved by sin, is never solved simply by our rejecting that sin, no matter how many times we try, no matter how strenuously we struggle to reject it....The strongest man or woman in the world is not nearly strong enough to triumph over his or her sin simply by saying no to it. What we need is the strength-giving grace occasioned by our saying yes to something else, by our saying yes, and yes, and yes--ceaselessly--to Someone else. It is not our finally turning away from sin that frees us from sin's recurrence; rather it is our turning toward Christ--and the mystery of our continuing to turn into Him--that puts sin behind us.


And so, sure, I too want very much to be saved. These days that means that I want to be saved from what passes for myself. This is because what passes for myself does not always feel quite like the self that is framed in the image of God and is thus united with those around me and is, allegedly, growing with them into His likeness. I would like to replace this recurrently hamstrung, self-defeating, and mostly isolated self with the more promising image: the person in communion with other other persons. And while I'm at it, I wouldn't mind undergoing something like a lasting re-pair of heart and mind, body, and soul.

This book makes a great gift, whether the recipient is Orthodox or not.


s-p said...

Thanks for the excerpts. I've seen more and more bits of his writing recently and I'm liking it.

Ian Climacus said...

Thank you for sharing; the extracts you quoted struck a chord with me and also what I needed to hear. I think the book will be a post-Christmas purchase.

The Singular Observer said...


With your interest in Georgia, I thought you'd be interested in this news tidbit - but the link is in Afrikaans:

Apparently, a manager from the TLU, which is one of South Africa's foremost Commercial Farmers' Unions, is in Georgia on invitation from the Georgian government, to advise on the re-establishment of commercial agriculture in that country, seeing the damage that was done during the Soviet Era. Farm murders continue unabated in South Africa, so there has been quite a number of information requests from SA farmers that are considering the feasibilities of establishing farming operations in Georgia.

Here's the link anyways: