The danger of individualism often exposes itself in struggle. Christian traditions flowing out of the Reformation place such a premium on “preisthood of all believers” the tendency is toward a hyper-individualism. Such a move gives me the privilege of “interpreting for myself,” “deciding for myself,” and “being responsible only to/for myself.” The island we create gets lonely when in our interpretation of life, deciding my own fate, and limiting the scope of my actions to myself results in “nothing and nobody waiting” with/for me/us in the midst of deep pain and hurt.
A man can keep his sanity and say alive as long as there is at least one person who is waiting for him. The mind of man can indeed rule his body even when there is little health left. A dying mother can stay alive to see her son before she gives up the struggle, a soldier can prevent his mental and physical disintegration when he knows that his wife and children are waiting for him. But when “nothing ad nobody” is waiting, there is not chance to survive in the struggle for life.” (quoted from A Guide to Prayer for Minsters and Other Servants, p.78)
It is too easy to say in some sort of supra-spiritual turn a person may survive the struggle with Jesus when it is precisely the model of Scripture that Jesus shows up in the person of a “somebody.” Who will you journey with during the struggles of life so they may survive the depths of pain?
3 comments on “Nouwen on Surviving the Struggle of Life”
For many, the loneliness of our culture carries over to our spiritual walk. And yet, as you say, we desperately need others. We are often afraid to ask for someone to journey with us. But we need to put that aside and engage in relationships and ask people to pray for us and with us.
We just can’t do it alone.
Todd, I use that same prayer guide. What a joy it is to prepare oneself for the day and task of ministering.
Nouwen is such a prophetic voice for community. And, he has such keen insight into the scary parts of living and dying, his words truly reflect the ideal soul…one that I often struggle with.
I agree with you about our hyper-individualism. It pains me to see it, when in churches, some leaders and followers treat spiritual ecstasy as a solo-event. Few things done in solo are ever as fulfilling as when done with someone else. Although the United Church of Canada’s Statement of Faith doesn’t say so, I wonder if Nouwen would agree that “In life, in death, in life beyond death,” our faith and spirituality are meant to be shared in order to be experienced…and when we do so with others, we’re also doing it along with God.
thanks for your post, what a great thing to send me off to bed with.
Yes, and your recent move to intentionally embrace that is nice to see.
I do enjoy the little book and its “reflections.” And, I do agree, Nouwen has something to say to and with us.