Prof. Dr. Thorborg Aalen Leenderts, Oslo, N
In: Publikation der Norwegischen Kirche, 1987
...Dies ist ein ganz außergewöhnliches Buch, das sich jeder von uns unbedingt selbst schenken sollte: Jede Buchseite ist eine kostbare Perle, bereichernd, unverzichtbar für Meditationen, Gespräche, Forschung, Lehre und für unser gesamtes Leben ...
Rezension: Vertrauen wir noch auf Gott, wenn wir es wagen Anfechtung zuzulassen?
listen to my words
let it be the comfort
that I give ...
(the book of Job 21,2)
"It is very seldom to see books that combines the psychological and the theological aspects of crisis and sufferings", writes the leader of the Diakonhojskolen in Arhus Karsten Nissen. The school has, in cooperation with Diakonhojskolens Diakonforbund and Dixit Press, translated and published the book "Suffering and faith" from German to Danish. We are very grateful for this book that has now been available to us in Norway too. (Danish and Norwegian is almost the same language)
The book has been nominated to the award of the evangelical press 1984 in Germany. The German author Erika Schuchardt is dr. phil. habil and has great experience and education in psychology and socialpaedagogic and more. She gives us a thorough work connected to the 260 biographies written of people who are hit of a serious suffering either personal or as nearest relations. For a long time it has been important that the spiritual adviser knows something about crises and about what the Bible says about suffering. This book is about both aspects and it is about the connection between them. The book is quite a different challenge to the adviser. It is not so much a question of knowledge but more a question of the caretakers (the guides) own ability and will to suffer and to live through crises. In the beginning the reader faces the question: "How do I the reader live together with the suffering? For how long am I able to suffer? Do I allow suffering at all, and is suffering a part of my inside reality?"
During the reading of book I often recalled a young nurse and child mother. She was new in her work among young female cancer patients. She said:9 discovered with despair that I retired from the patients the first time, and I felt a depression come over me. I realized that I had to be willing to go through a personal sorrow connected with the possibility that I myself could turn ill and die away from my children, and about the reality this is for a big part of my patients. I am now able to work with empathy and very close to the patients because I lived through this crisis." Her willingness to suffer in order to get close to other in pain, made an impression on me, and this impression came over me again in the meeting with the basic theme of this book: How important it is that a person who are overtaken by a crisis has a human guiding through the crisis spiritually and human.
Chapter one gives a summary of the 260 biographies . There are pointed out three main experiences: "The first experience: In the pastoral spiritual advisory the suffering has mostly felt himself dragged down in passivity as object and he feels very seldom that he is taken serious as a subject who are connected with God.
Second experience: The suffering has the experience that the preaching of The Word is a comforting explanation and very seldom it is a comfort where the pain is solved critically. Third experience: Caretaking guides acts more as carriers of an official part than as co sufferings and partners who are hit personally."
Chapter two gives a description of "the learning process of how to deal with crisis" in 8 steps which the author herself has developed. I recognised much of it from other theories of crises but I have got quite a new understanding of, how important the aggression is in the work with crises.
Not just once in a while, but a thoroughly phase filled with the aggression where "everything that shows up can be used as a target". In fact this is the gate itself to the strong emotional and deep personal way that a man has to go to "accept the unavoidable". Schuchardt has found a close relationship between the ability of aggression and the possibility of real acceptance. If the aggression is released and received, it will be a mental cleaning that makes you free to further
crisis work (the key function of the aggression). If the aggression is locked up inside it can have serious consequences (suicidal, lifelong depression, isolating bitterness).
It showed up to be of great importance, for the ability to go through the aggression phase, which personal relationship the person with the crises had to God.
The "naive apathetic " answer was a real help for those who had integrated in themselves to take whatever happened as something God had laid unto them (and not as something coming from outside). To them the way to a real accept could be easier. Most of them got help in a "critical sympatic" answer anyway i.e. they went, like Job, into a discussion with God, and let him be the opposition and dialog partner in an unsecured and aggressive accuse.
Many of the biographies tells how a personal relationship to God "gives the depressed a contrast which he can communicate with day and night gives a dialog and prayer partner, a listener he can load. Still the book doesn't give an opportunity to comfort us with, that a believing person has a companion in God that makes him or her less dependent on us. On the contrary it sketches broadly how absolutely decisive the fellow companion is in the lapse of crisis (it might take years). The seriosity is emphasized by the dramatical fact that 2/3 of the persons in pain in the biographies committed suicide because their way through the crises stopped in phase 1 or 2 on account of a lack of fellow support.
One of the biographs has as through going theme: "What can God do when his people say "No" to him ?" This has become a question that goes through all of my life, she says. To find that God is not running away, but "shares the darkness with people", the sufferer needs a friend to practise: to listen all the time by walking aside and not in front of or behind the person in pain, to discover when the help blocks when it encourages, and when it hurts, to trust that God also interferes and helps, when nobody else sees a way out, to hope and to believe that both involved have the possibility in the weakness, to experience new strength".
This imply that you haven´t run away from the pain in your own life. "Only the people who don’t repress their handicap and their own weakness and therefore don’t stop learning, can escort in the meaning of being close to listen to, and abandon instruction.
One chapter of the book is about the theme: "Companion as a problem for the person in pain.“ Companions here means the fellowship in the church as well as the single person.
Schuchardt made her investigation on the biographies for a project group in the World Council of Churches, which worked with the fundamental questions of diacony. What in general are perceived as the fundamental problems of diacony vary? S. points at what always must be one of the central concerns of diacony: A church that really gives room for handicapped people, not as objects for charity, but as an integrated and indispensable part of the Christian fellowship. "Where the handicapped person are missing, the church is handicapped".
The last main chapter is: "Suffering and being capable of it. Theological considered". Here the author let well-known German theologs from both confessions bring their view on the topic "God and the pain". In different ways they discuss the "Why" and "Where to" of the suffering as fields where there might be created meanings without giving a final answer.
S. still misses an answer from the theologs at the "How" of the suffering. This "How", she thinks, is generally neglected although it is God given, namely the ability to get in touch. She looks at this ability, the chance of man for nearness and companion, as maybe our most important condition for living with the pain without going to pieces. Therefore she misses that the theologs not only say something about God, but also about the fellow being as Gods co-operator in the work up of the crisis.
After having read the book, I was thinking of a father whom I met few years ago. He had a mentally inhibited child. After having gone through his own crisis he became leader of an association of parents which has grown up here in Norway (the work through of the crisis phase 8: Solidarity). However, he told me: When we got this child, we resigned membership of a church after a while because we didn’t meet anybody there who could help us in our situation.
This is an an extraordinary book that every one of us should give ourselves, as a present. I am already looking forward to read it once more myself (with more time for meditation and reflection than when it had to be reviewed at a certain time.) Every page of this book is a precious pearl, enriching, indispensable for meditation, discussion, research, teaching and for life in general.
For a person who teaches in the relations between "profession and faith" this is a long waited book. It combines exactly what faith/profession integration implies: to see the connections and to build bridges between social/health subjects and the theological subjects and between the personal (e.g. Christian faith) and the professional by the helper. When it comes to the teaching process, I have in view (knowledge attitude skill) that it also takes care of this entirety, maybe with the main point on attitudes through the close meeting the reader gets with the person in pain.
The most urgent question I have afterwards is: Do I trust God enough to let my own and others unanswered prosecutions, anger and disappointment get through to God? What kind of people in pain am I a good companion to, do I stand their aggression?
And my prayer is this: Lord, let me stop giving answers that don't bring your truth, but brings my doubtfulness, escape, my arrogance, or a "life lie".