Agatha Christie on Facing Despair

If You Love, You Will Suffer.

Mockingbird / 6.1.21

Known as the best-selling author of all time, Agatha Christie resides in the pantheon of modern literature. While she’s known more for her murder mysteries, this splendid quotation from her autobiography is an insight into her faith — and a loving tribute to an unknown teacher who made such a lasting impression. Recalling her brief stay at the girls’ school in the small coastal town of Torquay, England, she wrote:

I can picture one teacher there — I can’t recall her name. She was short and spare, and I remember her eager jutting chin. Quite unexpectedly one day (in the middle, I think, of an arithmetic lesson) she suddenly launched forth on a speech on life and religion.

“All of you,” she said, “every one of you — will pass through a time when you will face despair. If you never face despair, you will never have faced, or become, a Christian, or known a Christian life. To be a Christian you must face and accept the life that Christ faced and lived; you must enjoy things as he enjoyed things; be as happy as he was at the marriage at Cana, know the peace and happiness that it means to be at harmony with God and with God’s will. But you must also know, as he did, what it means to be alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, to feel that all your friends have forsaken you, that those you love and trust have turned away from you, and that God Himself has forsaken you. Hold on then to the belief that this is not the end. If you love, you will suffer, and if you do not love, you do not know the meaning of a Christian life.

She then returned to the problems of compound interest with her usual vigour, but it is odd that those few words, more than any sermon I have ever heard, remained with me, and years later they were to come back to me and give me hope at a time when despair had me in its grip. She was a dynamic figure, and also, I think, a fine teacher; I wish I could have been taught by her longer.

image via Jorge Cocco Santángelo.