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Suffering


The Hardest Moments Right Now

1. When I know my kids have been on the iPad for too long but I still have work left to do. 2. When my kindergartener gets off of her morning Zoom meeting with her class and is inconsolably sad. 3. At night when I realize I have to do the day all over again. […]

Daniel Defoe on Preaching During a Pandemic

A resonant passage from A Journal of the Plague Year 1665, in which the author of Robinson Crusoe describes some of the preaching in London during that catastrophe, ht WDR:

Neither can I acquit those ministers that in their sermons rather sank than lifted up the hearts of their hearers. Many of them no doubt did it for the strengthening the resolution of the people, and especially for quickening them to repentance, but it certainly answered not their end, at least not in proportion to the injury it did another way; and indeed, as God Himself through the whole Scriptures rather draws to Him by invitations and calls to turn to Him and live, than drives us by terror and amazement, so I must confess I thought the ministers should have done also, imitating our blessed Lord and Master in this, that His whole Gospel is full of declarations from heaven of God’s mercy, and His readiness to receive penitents and forgive them, complaining, ‘Ye will not come unto Me that ye may have life’, and that therefore His Gospel is called the Gospel of Peace and the Gospel of Grace.

But we had some good men, and that of all persuasions and opinions, whose discourses were full of terror, who spoke nothing but dismal things; and as they brought the people together with a kind of horror, sent them away in tears, prophesying nothing but evil tidings, terrifying the people with the apprehensions of being utterly destroyed, not guiding them, at least not enough, to cry to heaven for mercy.

The Book of Sarah: On Eczema and Existential Despair

About a week-and-a-half ago, my body decided to have an a-cute eczema flare-up. Having only previously ever experienced mild eczema, I could tell you about how this was far from a delight. I could tell you about how I have changed my routines to accommodate it, abandoning showers and walks, as if eczema were a […]

Faith of Our Mothers

We’re living in unprecedented times. At least that’s what everyone is saying. And it’s true. There’s never been a time in our history when this many people have been using Zoom to make conference calls. But this is not the only time that people have faced catastrophic circumstances. The world has been a scary place […]

Is the Lord Among Us?

Grateful for this reflection, by Kenneth Tanner: As Christians, we do not live in denial about the downsides of existence. We do not deny the presence of evil as pestilence, or of evil as a lack of what is good and sustaining for us as creatures, nor do we ever imagine that these depravations are […]

How to Live in the Shadow of Calamity

Our friend Robin Sloan, who was a part of our Future Issue, wrote an incredible little missive to his email subscribers, whom he lovingly and nerdily dubs the Society of the Double Dagger. Just like a lot of artists confined to home right now, he’s got a lot of ideas for the time at hand—support […]

I’m a Believer…But Not Yet

The anxieties of the week weighed on me until I could take no more. I parked the car on my lunch break and climbed to the top of an observation hill, a spot where you can get an almost panoramic view of the city. As I took in the picturesque vista of the skyline and […]

The Pandemic and the Coffee Shop: What We Learn in Chaos

Things are getting gnarly and wild. Owning and operating a small coffee shop during this coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing. Schools around the nation are cancelling classes and opting for online classrooms. Many organizations are cancelling conferences. Small churches are getting kicked out of the high school auditoriums they meet in. Even […]

Departed to the Judgment: A Life Between Two Worlds

Are we in purgatory? The screaming sea of media and humans and texts and creations are overwhelming until they are not. And then, sometimes, you find yourself alone, but not alone. The noise is gone, but you are fully engaged in it. In a car, in bed, in the dark, in silence, these things simply […]

The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living: Reflections for Ash Wednesday

James Parker wrote a delightful, 500-word gem in this month’s Atlantic entitled Ode to Middle Age. If you only have ten minutes to spare, skip the commentary and just read the whole thing here right now. Not only is it a refreshing tribute to one’s aging experience — you don’t have to be middle-aged to […]

Death and Life Under the Mark of Cain

We, the heirs to the devastating dysfunction that was the twentieth century, clamor to hold on to life at all costs. We fear death above all else: it is the emblem summating all our lesser fears. The myriad anxieties which splinter and spoil our experience find their terminus in that most ancient enemy. We are […]

If Jesus Paid It All, What’s With All the Ashes?

This year’s Ash Wednesday sermon comes to us from Jason Micheli: Whenever I do a wedding rehearsal, I like to quash the unhelpful romanticism of the moment by pointing out to the bridal party that the ancient Church stole the outline of the marriage service from the Roman ceremony for the transferal of property. Who […]