"The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering, but a supernatural use for it." -Simone Weil
"Like most people I, too, have been blindsided by personal grief now and again over the years. And I have an increasingly keen sense that, wherever I am, someone nearby is suffering now.
For that reason, I lately have settled in to mull the matter over, gathering my troubled wits to undertake a difficult essay, more like what we used to call an assay, really--an earnest inquiry. I am thinking of it just now as a study in suffering, by which I hope to find some sense in affliction, hoping--just as I have come to hope about experience in general--to make something of it."
Is there meaning in our afflictions?
With the thoughtfulness of a pilgrim and the prose of a poet, Scott Cairns takes us on a soul-baring journey through "the puzzlement of our afflictions." Probing ancient Christian wisdom for revelation in his own pain, Cairns challenges us toward a radical revision of the full meaning and breadth of human suffering.
Clear-eyed and unsparingly honest, this new addition to the literature of suffering is reminiscent of The Year of Magical Thinking as well as the works of C. S. Lewis. Cairns points us toward hope in the seasons of our afflictions, because "in those trials in our lives that we do not choose but press through--a stillness, a calm, and a hope become available to us."
"Throughout this book, Cairns draws not only upon Saint Isaac, but also upon work by George Steiner, W.H. Auden, G.K. Chesterton, Dostoevsky (mainly his The Brothers Karamazov), Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Archimandrite Sophrony, Saint Theophan the Recluse, Kallistos Ware, Alexander Schmemann, Simone Weil, and others. This essay serves as not only an accessible reflection on suffering (it would be a good book to work through in small groups), but also as a nuanced entrée into the Christian tradition (particularly into its Orthodox branch), and into a way of doing theology that invites us to embrace - or, rather, to be embraced by - a new vision of life via the 'puzzlement' of our afflictions. Those already familiar with Cairns' poetry (and if you're not, shame on you!) will want to go back and re-read it. Those unfamiliar with Cairns the poet, will (hopefully) get enough of a taste of it in this essay that they will want to 'take up and read' [it]." --Rev. Dr. Jason Goroncy, Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology, University of Divinity