If we can help each person to reach their full potential that surely must be what God wants. According to Niall Ferguson’s book Civilisation, the historical difference in levels of poverty between North and South America shows how people given their own land and freedom of opportunity in the North leads to less poverty compared to the holding of land and opportunity by an elite few in the South.
Beyond contradiction and conflict; beyond choices between my dreams of the future or yours; beyond my ego and yours; beyond judgement and sentencing; beyond knowledge and precision; beyond work and service; beyond crisis, sickness and death; in togetherness is the mercy of God. It is our journey’s end, our goal, our meaning and our home.
There is a force or common good in reality which is bringing us together to achieve great things. Psalm 126 says ‘If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour’.
The monks at Ampleforth Abbey use the following five statements, with their five linked consolations, to help them to transfer their motivation to the common good:
1. Life is hard but when we work together Jesus tells us that ‘my yoke is easy, my burden light’.
2. I am not important but each person is important to God.
3. My life is not about me but I am crucial in the bigger picture.
4. I am not in control but God is in control.
5. I am going to die but in dying I live.
Once I have transferred my motivation away from my selfish desires and back to God I have undergone repentance like the Prodigal Son who said: ‘Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son’. His Father did not scold him but celebrated because ‘this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found’ Luke 15:24.
It’s difficult to accept suffering when life is hard. Southwick and Charney’s book on resilience explores 10 features which improve people’s ability to recover from trauma. They are: 1. Realistic optimism; 2. Facing fear; 3. A moral compass; 4. Religion and spirituality; 5. Social support; 6. Resilient role models; 7. Physical fitness; 8. Brain fitness; 9. Cognitive and emotional flexibility and 10. Meaning and purpose in life.
Peter Coates, secretary of Churches Together in King’s Lynn.