Faith during Difficult Times (4)

Lessons from Deitrich Bonhoeffer.


homeless person
Be Aware of the less Fortunate

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The 4th lesson from Deitrich Bonhoeffer, (if you missed the others see the Calendar), is Compare yourself with those less fortunate. Which could also be looked at as counting your blessings.

When things don’t work out as you’d hoped they would, the natural thing to do is to become self-absorbed, to lose perspective and to be enveloped in self-pity. Envy is counting someone else's blessings and the oxygen to an unhealthy response to disappointment and envy thrives on comparison. The only way I have found to conquer envy is to pray for a blessing on those you envy. Weird as it seems, it works.

Some of us are good at internalizing anger, blaming themselves for situations, often not our fault at all and turning anger into depression. Bonhoeffer avoided all this by comparing downwards instead of upwards.

There is always someone worse off than yourself. Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have had to look hard, with God’s perspective to find them in his position. Most of us will not have to look quite that hard, before we indeed can see someone worse off than us. Try ‘the lost’ - what about those going through this same difficult time, WITHOUT JESUS! A horrendous thought indeed. We can cling to the presence of God and the knowledge of the way he has blessed our lives and cared for us in the past - what do they have?

“When people suggest in their letters … that I’m ‘suffering’ here, I reject the thought … I doubt very much whether I’m ‘suffering’ any more than … most people are suffering today.”

Bonhoeffer was constantly concerned about and asked after the welfare of his comrades. For instance, he wrote with reference to the church leader Martin Niemöller, who had been in Dachau concentration camp since 1937:

“Please harbour no regrets about me. Martin has had nearly seven years of it, and that is a very different matter.”

Bonhoeffer was obviously praying for Niemöller, who survived the war. Bonhoeffer continued to empathize with others despite his own troubles, believing that:

“the centre of our own lives is outside ourselves.”

Indeed, his faith helped him to take a broader view of his own circumstances:

“As long as one doesn’t lose sight of the greater issues in these small disappointments that one keeps on experiencing, one soon sees how trivial one’s own personal privations are.”