Suffering Transfigured

From Canterbury Pilgrim, 84-87 (1974)

“Fret not thyself because of the ungodly” (Psalm 37:1). There is certainly much to fret about: not only the world but also the church as an institution can make you fret. There will also be fretting of a more personal kind always around the corner. The world is in God’s hands; but his sovereignty is one of self-giving love, of the cross and resurrection, of life through death; it is the sovereignty of suffering transfigured. There our fretting has its supreme answer, and you will see the truth of the cross and resurrection in the men and women whom you try to love and serve. Remember also that the church is both divine and human, and that it is God who judges the church in its human element, and after judging can raise up faithful remnant.

Whenever fretting threatens to get you down, turn to our Lord; he is grieving. Think of his sorrow, and the sting of self-pity will be drawn from yours. Every Christian and ordained person must come near to the grief of Jesus, seeing with his eyes, feeling with his heart. We come to learn that any disappointment, setback, or personal sorrow, for any wound to our pride can be made different if we are near to the grief of Jesus. May then be able to say with the Psalmist, “it is good for me that I have been in trouble” (Psalm 119:71).

Many lives will be healed and made strong by your teaching, your care, and by your love for them. Our Lord will be there, with the words, “peace be unto you, as the father sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21). But with the words, “peace be unto you,” go always the wounds in his hands and his side. In the years to come you will know the wounds more than in the past, and you will also know the peace more than you know it now. And one day many will thank God for all that you will have done to make the wounds and the peace of Christ known to them.

Michael Ramsey (1904-1988) was the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. A gifted theologian and spiritual writer, he advocated for the cause of church unity throughout his ministry. His book Canterbury Pilgrim is a collection of lectures and addresses given during the final years of his ministry as archbishop.

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