Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing by Sören Kierkegaard
Sören Kierkegaard is one of the towering Christian existential thinkers of the mid-nineteenth century. While his literary style was experimental, his writings call for Christian morality; a defense of faith and religion. Among his many books are Training in Christianity, Sickness Unto Death, and Fear and Trembling. This book was first published by Harper in 1938. It was translated from the Danish and contains an introductory essay by Douglas V. Steere. Prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Willie Brock.
Chapter 10: The Price of Willing One Thing: An Examination of the Extreme Case of an Incurable Sufferer
2. If a man in truth wills the Good then he must be willing to suffer all for the Good.
This applies to the active ones. But from the sufferer, if he shall in truth will the Good, it is demanded that he must be willing to suffer all for the Good, or, as was previously explained, for the expression is essentially the same (and therein lies precisely the equal participation of the Eternal in the differentiations of earthly life), he must be willing in his decision to be and to remain with the Good. For he may also suffer and suffer and continue to suffer without ever arriving at any decision, in the true sense, of assenting to the suffering. A man may have suffered throughout his whole life without it ever, in any true sense, being able to be said of him that he has been willing to suffer all for the Good. But in that respect the suffererís suffering is different from the active personís suffering, for when the active one suffers, then his suffering has significance for the victory of the Good in the world. When the sufferer, on the other hand, willingly takes up his appointed sufferings, he is willing to suffer all for the Good, that is, in order that the Good may be victorious in him.
Therefore, the sufferer must be willing to suffer all. All; but now how at this point shall the talk be conducted? For alas, even now the sight and the knowledge of suffering can easily rob anyone of composure. How shall the talk be briefly formulated? For the sufferings are able to be so different, and of such long duration. Here, once again, let us not multiply distractions but rather let us simplify that which is really important. Let us center all the talk about suffering upon the wish. For the wish is the suffererís connection with a happier temporal existence (faith and hope are related to the Eternal through the will); and at the same time the wish is the sore spot where the suffering pains, the sore spot which the suffering continually touches. Even if suffering could still be spoken of where there is no longer any wish, it is an animal-like suffering, not suffering that befits a man. It is a kind of spiritual suicide to will to put the wish to death. For we are not talking about wishes, but rather about the wish with the real emphasis of distinction, just as we also are not talking about passing sufferings, but of the real sufferer. The wish is not the cure. This happens only by the action of the Eternal. The wish is, on the contrary, the life in suffering, the health in suffering. It is the perseverance in suffering, for it is as one thinker has said, "The comfort of temporal existence is a precarious affair. It lets the wound grow together, although it is not yet healed, and yet the physician knows that the cure depends upon keeping the wound open." In the wish, the wound is kept open, in order that the Eternal may heal it. If the wound grows together, the wish is wiped out and then eternity cannot heal, then temporal existence has in truth bungled the illness.
And so let us speak of the wish and thereby of the sufferings; let us properly linger over this, convinced that one may learn more profoundly and more reliably what the highest is by considering suffering than by observing achievements, where so much that is distracting is present. There are wishes that die in being born; there are wishes that are forgotten like our yesterdays; there are wishes that one outgrows, and later can scarcely recall; there are wishes that one learns to give up, and how good it was to have given them up; there are wishes from which one dies. away, which one hides away, just as a departed one is hidden away in glorified memory. Those are the wishes to which an active person is exposed. They may be more or less dangerous diseases. Their cure may be accomplished by the extinction of the individual wish.
Yet there is also a wish that dies slowly, a wish that remains with the real sufferer even in the pain of his loss, and that only dies when he dies. For wishes concern particular objects, and a great number of objects, but the, wish applies essentially to the whole life.
Yet sad as it is with the wish, how joyful it is with hope! For there is a hope that is born and dies; a short-lived hope, that tomorrow is forgotten; a childish hope, that old age does not recognize; a hope that one dies away from. But then -- in death, in deathís decision, a hope is born, that does not die in being born because it is born in death. By this hope the sufferer, under the pain of the wish, is committed to the Good. So it is with the hope in which the sufferer, as though from afar off, reaches out toward the Eternal.
With faith it is still more joyful. For there is a faith that disappoints and vanishes; a faith that is lost and is repented of; there is a faith, which, when it droops is like death. But then -- in death, in deathís decision a faith is won that does not disappoint, that is not repented of, that does not die; it seizes the Eternal and holds fast to it. By this faith, under the pain of the wish, the sufferer is committed to the Good. So it is with faith in which the sufferer draws the Eternal nearer to himself.
But with love it is most joyous of all. For there is a love, that blazes up and is forgotten; there is a love that unites and divides -- a love until death. But then -- in death, in deathís decision, there is born a love that does not flame up, that is not equivocal, that is not -- until death, but beyond death, a love that endures. In this love under the pain of the wish, the sufferer is committed to the Good. Oh, you sufferer, whoever you may be, will you then with doubleness of mind seek the relief that temporal existence can give, the relief that permits you to forget your suffering (yes, so you think) but rather that allows you to forget the Eternal! Will you in doubleness of mind despair, because all is lost (yes, so you think) yet with the Eternal all is to be won! Will you in doubleness of mind despair? Have you considered what it is to despair? Alas, it is to deny that God is love! Think that over properly, one who despairs abandons himself (yes, so you think); nay, he abandons God! Oh, weary not your soul with that which is passing and with momentary relief. Grieve not your spirit with forms of comfort which this world affords. Do not in suicidal fashion murder the wish; but rather win the highest by hope, by faith, by love -- as the mightiest of all are able to do: commit yourself to the Good!
Once again let us speak of the wish, and hence of sufferings. A discussion of sufferings may always be profitable if it does not confine itself to the stubbornness of the affliction but is concerned whenever possible with the edification of the sufferer. It is both permissible and an act of sympathy to dwell upon suffering in order that the sufferer may not become impatient with our superficial discussion in which he does not recognize his own suffering and in order that in such impatience he may not thrust aside all consolation and be strengthened in double-mindedness. It is indeed one thing to move out into life with the wish when that which is wished for, continued to be work and a task. It is another thing to move out into life away from that wish. Look at Abraham.(Genesis 12:1) He had to leave the home of his fathers and journey out among a strange people, where there was no reminder of that which he loved -- yes, it is true that sometimes it may be a consolation, that nothing reminds one of what he wishes to forget, but it is a bitter consolation for one who is filled with longing. Hence a man can also have a wish that for him contains all, so that in the hour of separation. when the journeying is begun, it is as if he wandered out into a strange land where nothing but the contrast with what he has lost reminds him of that which he wished for. It can be to him as if he journeyed into a strange land. even if he remains in his home, perhaps on the same spot -- through the loss of the wish, indeed, it may be as if he were among strangers, so that to suffer the loss of the wish seems to him heavier and more critical than the loss of his mind. Even if he does not leave the spot, his life moves along a laborious path away from that wish, perhaps into useless sufferings, for we are talking of the real sufferer, hence not of the ones who have the consolation that their sufferings are serving some good cause, are of benefit to others. It must have been like this: The journey to the strange country was not long; in a moment he was there, there in that strange country, where the sufferers were gathered, only not those that had stopped grieving; not those whose tears eternity cannot wipe away, for the reason that as an old religious writing so simply and so touchingly says, "how shall God be able in heaven to dry up your tears when you have not wept?"(Jose Arndtís True Christianity.)
Another comes perhaps by another way but to the same place. Silently, the guiding necessity leads him onward. Austere and earnest, not cruel, for it is never cruel, duty comes behind and brings up the rear of the company. But the path is not the path of the wish. Now he halts for a moment, even the two austere guides are touched by his suffering: look, there a side path branches off; "good-by, thou wish of my youth, thou friendly place, where I had hoped to be able to build and to dwell with my wish!" So they move on; the guiding necessity silently in advance, duty austere and silent comes behind, not cruel, for duty is never cruel. Alas, look, there a road runs off to the side that leads to the wish; "good-by, my place of work where by the full joy of work I had hoped to be able to forget the wishes I was denied in youth." So the company moved on. Yet the manner in which it happens does not matter, whether it be the spot that is altered and the sufferer remains at that same spot, or whether the sufferer changes his whereabouts and journeys away; this does not matter, if the place is the same, if they are gathered at this one place, which human language may well be tempted to call: the useless suffering that is beyond the reach of any comfort. The sufferings themselves could have different names, but let us not multiply names. Let us consider what is essential; that the real sufferer does not benefit others by his suffering, but rather is a burden upon them. If this latter is not the case, the former must then be so if the suffering is to be regarded as useless, that is, if the sufferer is in the strictest sense to be called a sufferer. In the strictest sense, and let us really be strict with ourselves in order that we may not venture to call ourselves sufferers, the first time anything goes against us; but let us be all the more tender with those who are in the strictest sense sufferers. Oh, such a sufferer, whoever you may be; if a man is come to the point in the land of his birth where every way of making a living is closed to him, then he thinks seriously of emigrating to a foreign country and there seeking his fortune. But perhaps you answer, "ĎWhat does that mean, how shall I be able to emigrate, and what good would it do me to change my location? My lot is cast, everywhere on earth it would be just the same." Of course, but let us understand one another; the journey of which we speak is not long, neither is the lot cast, unless you have already found the way out of your suffering: it is only a single step, a decisive step, and you, too, have emigrated, for the Eternal lies much nearer to you than any foreign country to the emigrant, and yet when you are there the change is infinitely greater. So then, go with God to God, continually take that one step more, that single step that even you, who cannot move a limb, are still able to take; that single step, that even the prisoner, who has lost his freedom, even the one in chains, whose feet are not free, is still able to take: and you are committed to the Good. Nobody, not even the greatest that has ever lived, can do more than you.
But bear in mind: your sufferings might well be called useless, and that we men can certainly be tempted to speak of useless suffering as beyond the reach of comfort. But this is only human speech. In the language of eternity, the suffering that helped you to reach the highest is far from useless. Alas, it is only useless and unused when you will not let yourself be helped by it up to the highest -- for perhaps you killed the wish and became spiritually like dead flesh that feels no pain, otherwise it is just at the point of the wish that the sufferer winces and that the Eternal comforts.
Let us once again speak of the wish, and hence of sufferings. It is well not to turn away from the sight of suffering too soon. Let us properly dwell upon it, being convinced that for the deadly disease of "busyness" there is no medicine so specific as the pondering of the hard path of the true sufferer and as a fellow human being sharing with him in the common lot of suffering. But alas, how often manís sympathetic sharing in the suffering of others stands in inverse ratio to the length of the suffering! For if the suffering is drawn out in length, sympathy tends to pall: as the suffering increases, the sympathy decreases. At the first appearance of suffering, menís sympathy rushes out to the victim. But when the suffering lingers on, then sympathy subsides, and, on the part of the busy individual when the first active stage of his sympathy has waned, this sympathy at times changes into a certain bitterness against the sufferer. Yes: wishes could be healed after a time, they could become a part of the past: but not the wish. There is a real distinction here, for there is a pain of the wish which sympathy can fix upon, but there is also a pain of the wish that eludes all scrutiny, that conceals itself and secretly follows through an entire life. Yes, it follows, but in the sense of privation. Yes, like a faithful companion this pain follows the sufferer throughout his whole life and keeps him company, but there is no sympathy in attendance. Now in what way ought we to speak of this wish that may possibly exist but that withdraws into concealment, and yet speak so that the sufferer will acknowledge the description, so that he will not take offense and impatiently turn away from our officious account of sufferings which we are either not capable or have not had the time to think ourselves into? Let us then, wherever possible in the description, speak with the suffererís own tongue and leave it to God to communicate to his heart any light that he may have for him.
Let us assume that dumb animals could have thoughts and could make themselves understood to one another even though we could not make out what they said, let us take that for granted. It seems almost as if this were so. For when in summer the peasantís horse stands in the meadow and throws up his head or shakes it, surely no one can know with certainty what that means; or when two of them who throughout their lives have walked side by side pulling in the same yoke are turned out at night, when they approach one another as if in intimacy, when they almost caress each other by movements of the head; or when the free horses neigh to one another so that the woods echo, when they are gathered on the plains in a big herd as if at a public meeting -- assume then that they really could make themselves understood to one another.
But then there was one horse that was all alone. Now when this horse heard the call, when he saw that the herd was gathering in the evening, and he understood that they were about to hold a meeting, then he came running in the hope that he might learn something about life and its ways. He listened carefully to all that the elders had to say about how no horse should think himself fortunate until he is dead, how the horse of all creatures is most subject to the tragic changes of fate. And now the elder went over the many agonies: to suffer hunger and cold, to all but kill oneself through overwork, to be kicked by a cruel driver, to be abused by unskilled persons whom not a single step you take will satisfy, yet who blame and punish the horse for their own blunders, and then at last some winter, when old age has come on, to be driven out into the bare woods.
At this point the meeting broke up and that horse who had come with such eagerness went away dejected "by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken" (Proverbs 15:13). He had understood perfectly all that had been said, but no one there had even as much as mentioned his sufferings. Yet each time he noticed the other horses hurrying off to a gathering he came running eagerly, hoping always that now it would be spoken of. And each time he listened he went away with a heavy heart. He came to understand better and better what the others were concerned about, but he came to understand himself less and less, just because it seemed as though the others excluded him, although he, too, was present.
Oh, you sufferer, whoever you may be, if your suffering was not hidden because you wished to hide it (for then you can manage; your action calls for a different comment) but if it is because of misunderstandings then you, too, have gone among men, listened carefully to their explanations, sought out their instruction, taken part in their meeting. But each time you finished the book, and each time the conversation was over, and each time the "Amen" was pronounced: then was your spirit broken because your heart grew troubled as you sighed: "Oh, that such a thing was all that I suffered from!" Oh, but you are not wholly wanting in being understood, for even if you yourself may have done nothing to deserve it, you shall be bidden to the highest thing of all, and to the Most High Himself. Nor are you wholly without human sympathy. There is a common human concern that is called edification. It is not so common as those undertakings about which the crowd shouts and clamors, for each participant is in reality alone with himself, but yet in the highest and most inclusive sense, edification is a common human concern. The edifying contemplation finds no rest until it has come to understand you. Is not one sinner who repents more important to Heaven than ninety-nine righteous men(Luke 15:7.) who have no need of repentance? So it is with you if you are one who truly suffers, your edifying contemplation is more important than the actions of ninety-nine busy ones who have no need of edification. Yes, even if you did not exist, the edifying contemplation finds no rest before it has also plumbed this sorrow. For woe to the edifying talk that wishes only to chat between man and man about all the different inconveniences in life but does not dare risk touching upon the more terrible sufferings: such a talk is without frankness and can but have a bad conscience if it poses under the name of "edifying." The busy ones that neither toil nor are oppressed (Compare Matthew 11:28.) but are just busy, think that they have escaped whení they have contrived to avoid sufferings in this life; hence they do not wish to be disturbed either by hearing or thinking of that which is terrible. Yes, it is true that tibey have escaped. They have also escaped having any insight into life and have escaped into meaninglessness.
Oh, you sufferer, alone and abandoned as you are by the generation to which you belong, know that you are not abandoned by God, your creator. Everywhere you are surrounded by His understanding which offers itself to you at each moment. In it you unite your will with the Good. And the edifying contemplation is always ready to remind you of that presence; and its very existence is a source of security to the living.
As it is a comfort to seafarers to know that no matter on what strange water they may venture there are always pilots within call, so the edifying contemplation stands near the breakers and reefs of this life prepared by daily sight of terrible sufferings swiftly to render what little aid it can. Yet it cannot help in the way that a pilot helps the ship. The sufferer must help himself. But then neither shall he owe to this or to any other man what the seafarer owes to the pilot. Indeed if this sufferer like anyone else sincerely wills the Good, then he must be ready to suffer all. Then he is committed, not in that commitment by which he is exempted from suffering, but in that by which he remains intimately bound to God, in which he wills only one thing: namely, to suffer all, to be and to remain loyally committed to the Good -- under the pain of the wish.
My listener! Perhaps you are tired of so much talk about suffering -- but an edifying talk never tires of it, no, a mother may sooner tire of nursing her sick child than the edifying talk of speaking of suffering. You are perhaps what is called a "happy one" whom talk of this kind tires. Yet surely you are not so happy as to wish to remain coldly ignorant of sufferings; on the contrary you aspire to this knowledge of suffering for your own sake in order that your education may be improved by its somber spectacle! Or perhaps you are a sufferer, who is wearied by talking of so many different kinds of suffering when yours is not even mentioned. Oh, to edify oneself in a living way with the sufferings of others is a comfort, and to dwell too exclusively on oneís own suffering may easily become that doubleness of mind which thinks that there is comfort for all others but none for itself. But this is not so. For with suffering each has his own, be it great or small. But with comfort it is certainly true that there is comfort for all, and in fact the same comfort for all.
Now let us once again speak of the wish, and hence of sufferings, for the duration of the suffering makes it heavier and heavier. But its duration depends as a matter of fact upon when the suffering began. A shrewd pagan has wisely observed that a man can accustom himself to protracted sufferings.(Epicurus in Diogenes Laertus, 140.) But the question here is, whether such comfort is the right thing. For what is being considered here is not how to find the readiest and best source of comfort, but rather how to will the Good in truth, how to will to suffer all in order to be and to remain committed to the Good.
Let us speak of a whole life of sufferings or of some person whom nature, from the very outset, as we humans are tempted to say, wronged, someone who from birth was singled out by useless suffering: a burden to others; almost a burden to himself; and yes, what is worse, to be almost a born objection to the goodness of Providence. Alas, the career of many a busy man is described by and gives rise to fresh busyness. The contemplation of such an unfortunate one is an excellent antidote for busyness. For just by observing such a sufferer, one comes to know unmistakably what the highest is. But we will not speak carelessly or in passing, hastening away from the sight of this suffering, absorbed in rejoicing over our having been spared it. Neither shall we speak despondently.
To be sure it is wonderful to be a child, to fall asleep upon the motherís breast only to awaken to see the mother again; to be a child and to know only the mother and the toy! We laud the happiness of childhood. The very sight of it soothes us by its smile, so that even the one to whom fortune is granted does not forget this down through the years. But, God be praised, it is not so ordered, that this should be the highest thing of all. It may be dispensed with without losing the highest thing of all. It may be absent without having lost the highest thing of all.
And to be sure it is fine to be young, to lie sleepless with the ferment of joyful thoughts, and to fall asleep only to wake up early with the song of the birds to continue the gaiety! We laud the happiness of youth. We rejoice with the joyful ones. We wish that youth might feel grateful for its happiness, and in the future we wish that it might be thankful for that which has vanished. But, God be praised, it is not so ordered that this should be the highest thing of all. It may be dispensed with without losing the highest thing of all. It may be absent without having lost the highest thing of all.
And to be sure it is blessed to love, to be reduced to a single desire. What does it matter if all other desires are fulfilled or denied? There is but one desire, the loved one; one longing, the loved one; one possession, the loved one! We laud the happiness of love. Oh, that the fortunate one may be steadfast in the daily thankfulness of domestic life; that he may be faithful in the continuing thankfulness of remembrance. But, God be praised, it is not so ordered that this should be the highest thing of all. It may be dispensed with without losing the highest thing of all. It may be absent without having lost the highest thing of all.
But now the sufferer! Alas, there was no happy childhood for him. Of course a motherís love is faithful and tender, especially toward an ailing child. But a mother is also a human being. When he lay at his motherís breast, she did not gaze joyfully upon him. He saw that she was troubled. Sometimes when he wakened he noticed her weeping.
Even among grown-ups when they sit about depressed, let a man appear at the door, a happy, gifted one with light heart and gay spirit, and let him say, "Here am I!" and at once the merriment begins, and the clouds of care are routed. Such a gifted one is uncommon. But even the rarest genius of all, when can he bring in comparison to a child, when it makes its entrance amid the agonizing pain of the birth hour, opens the door and says, "Here am I!" Oh, the good fortune of childhood, to be so welcome!
Then he grew into a youth, but he never played with the others, and if someone asked him, "Why do you not play with the others?" he might well have replied, "How have you the heart to ask me such a question?" So he withdrew from life, yet not with the object of dying, for he was still only a youth.
Then came the season of love, but no one loved him. Of course there were a few that were friendly toward him, but it was out of compassion and sympathy. Then he became a man, but he stood apart from life. Then he died, but even here he was not spared. For the little band that made up the mournerís train all said it was a blessing that God took him away, and the priest said the same thing. Then he was dead, and then he was forgotten -- together with all of his useless sufferings. When he was born there was no gladness or rejoicing, only fearful dismay; when he died there was no grief or affliction, only a melancholy joy. In this fashion his life was passed, or, to speak more accurately, is passed, for this is not an ancient fairy tale that I am telling, of what has happened to an "individual" in bygone days. The same thing happens frequently. It lies close enough to us even though frivolity and sensuousness, worldly cleverness and godlessness wish to remain ignorant of it. It lies close enough to us even though they wish to keep away from any such unfortunate ones and to avoid all sober reminders not alone from the careless judgment of the storytellerís art, but also from the church and from the edifying insight that must certainly know that the Holy Scriptures have almost a predilection for the halt and the lame, the blind and the lepers. When the disciples began to seem "busy," Christ set a little child in their midst.(Mark 9:36) The crowd that storms and blusters in the bewildered name of the century might well tempt a serious man to set just such an unfortunate sufferer in their midst. The sight of him certainly would not detain anyone that willed anything eternal; but busyness has nothing whatever to do with the Eternal.
He, the sufferer, took part in life -- by living. But to his life one thing was unknown, a thing which in all relations of life, as in the passion of love, makes for happiness: to be able to give and to receive "like for like." This "like for like" he never received, and he himself could never give; for as a sufferer he was always an object of sympathy and compassion. No, he never got like for like, not as a child, so that if others saddened his mother he might make her happy merely by smiling as he wakened. No, he never got like for like, for he loved his playmates in a different way than they loved him. No, he never got like for like, and therefore he got no mate. All through his life he could never do anything to repay others. And even in death he did not get like for like, for he was not mourned, as he had mourned those dear to him. He died, but what did the mourners and the priest say there except, "God be praised." Do not all these things cut him off from the highest?
Oh, you sufferer, wherever you may be, wherever you hide from the sight of men in order to spare them from being reminded of the pitiable, oh, do not forget that you, too, can accomplish something. Do not let your life consume itself in a futile counting up of the worthless sufferings of the days and years. Do not forget that you can accomplish something. If some feigned sufferer wishes to throw himself upon others because of a slight adversity, this does not mean that he should be told as is sometimes done, that he can accomplish something for others. For one who is capable of accomplishing something for others is not regarded by the edifying contemplation as in the strictest sense a sufferer. Instead he would be harsh with him. Oh, you true sufferer, even though your very suffering cuts you off from any such service to others, you can still do -- the highest thing of all. You can will to suffer all and thereby be committed to the Good. Oh, blessed justice, that the true sufferer can unconditionally do the highest quite as well as fortuneís favorite child! Honor and praise be to the Eternal, in whom is no shadow of turning, in whom is neither malice nor favoritism but perfect justice. By willing to suffer all you are committed to the Good, having changed your garments -- yes, as when the dead rise up and cast off their grave clothes, so you have cast off the mantle of your misery. Now you are indistinguishable from those whom you wish to be like-those that are committed to the Good. All are clothed alike, girded about the loins with truth, arrayed in the armor of righteousness and wearing the helmet of salvation!(Ephesians 6:14, 17). If it be so, and it is the hope of every good man that there is a resurrection where there shall be no difference, where the deaf man shall hear, the blind man see, where he that bore a form of misery shall be fair like all the others, then there is indeed on this side of the grave some such resurrection each time a man, by willing to do all or to suffer all, rises up by entering into the commitment, and remains bound to the Good in the commitment. The sole difference is the pain of the wish in the him into the sufferer. But at the same time this may be a help to bring him into the decision.
The sufferer must therefore be willing to suffer all. This means equally to be willing to do all: to bring it to a commitment, to be and to remain loyal to the Good in the commitment. While it is true that the pain of the wish is the sign that the suffering in a way continues; yet the healing also continues, as long as the sufferer remains firm in the commitment. But there is a force that is momentarily powerful. It is cleverness. From cleverness and from the moment, or through it and from the moment, a manís destruction is born -- if it is a fact that a manís salvation comes in the Eternal and by the Eternal. Now cleverness may be inwardly misused; for outwardly a true sufferer has little chance of misusing it. Cleverness in this inner realm is rich in evasions by which the time is put off and the decision is postponed. It will come to understand the decision only in an earthly and temporal sense. From its momentary standpoint, it has in view only a decision by which the suffering shall be brought to an end. But be assured, the Eternal does not heal in this fashion. The palsied man does not become whole, because he has been healed by the Eternal, nor the leper clean, nor the deformed made physically perfect. "But then it is a useless device, this help of the Eternal," cleverness suggests, "and what is still worse, is this decision, where the sufferer dedicates himself to his suffering, which indeed makes his condition hopeless" -- because the decision renounces the juggling hope of temporal existence. Where the Eternal does not come to heal such a sufferer, what happens, with the aid of cleverness, is about as follows: first, the sufferer lives for some years by an earthly hope; but when this is exhausted and the suffering still continues, then he becomes superstitious, his state of health alternates between drowsiness and burning excitement. As the suffering continues, there settles over him finally a dull despair, broken only rarely by an unnatural and terribly enfeebling intensity, as when the gambler hopes on and on that some day he will meet with luck. Alas, at length a man sees what cleverness and this earthly hope amount to! For to cleverness it seems so clever "that one should not foolishly give up an earthly hope for a possible mythical healing" -- in order to win the Eternal. To cleverness it seems so cunning "that one would not decide to say farewell to the earth; indeed, one can never know what possibly could happen . . . and then one would regret" -- that one had let himself be healed by the Eternal. The earthly hope and the heavenly hope grew up well together and played together in childhood like born equals, but the difference reveals itself in the decision. Yet, this hinders cleverness which steadily hinders the decision. Those who cling to life put off the time, have countless inventions whose genius is this: that one must not take life and his own sorrows too much to heart, that it was just possible, who can know that -- etc.
When the sufferer actually takes his suffering to heart, then he receives help from the Eternal toward his decision. Because to take oneís suffering to heart is to be weaned from the temporal order, and from cleverness and from excuses, and from clever men and women and from anecdotes about this and that, in order to find rest in the blessed trustworthiness of the Eternal. For the sufferer, it is as if one should liken him to a sick man who turns himself from side to side, and now at last discovers the position in which there is relief -- even if the wish still pains. Even if it was only a trifle, one can never have taken something too much to heart, when in taking it so to heart he thereby wins the Eternal.
But the sufferer who does not wish to be healed by the Eternal is double-minded. The double-mindedness in him is a disease that gnaws and gnaws and eats away the noblest powers; the injury is internal and infinitely more dangerous than being deformed and palsied. This double-minded one wishes to be healed and yet does not wish to be healed: eternally, he does not wish to be healed. But the temporal cure is uncertain, and the different stages in the scale of uncertainty are marked by increasing restlessness, in his double-mindedness. When the double-minded man comes to the final moment of his life, cleverness will still be sitting at his deathbed and explaining that one cannot know what might suddenly and unexpectedly happen. Under no circumstances should a messenger be sent after the clergyman, for cleverness is so afraid of the decision that it even regards the clergymanís coming as a tacit decision, and indeed one can never know what suddenly and unexpectedly might happen. So the double-minded one dies, and now the survivors know for certain that the deceased was not cured of his long-standing suffering by any sudden and unexpected means. Alas, the Eternal is a riddle for the one who, m the clever sense of the moment, loves the world. Over and over again he thinks, what if some temporal help should suddenly appear, then I would be trapped, I, who by commitment to the Eternal had died to the temporal. He prefers to say, one still regards the temporal as the highest, one looks upon the Eternal as a kind of desperate "last resort." Therefore, one objects to giving it the decision for as long as possible. And even if temporal help is the most absurd and unreasonable of all expectations, yet one would sooner whip up his superstitious imagination to hope for it than to lay hold on the Eternal. One is constantly afraid that he might live to regret it, and yet the Eternal, if one honestly lays hold on it, is the only thing, absolutely the only thing of which it may be said without reservation, it will never be regretted. But because of this fear that he should one day regret committing himself to the Eternal, a man deserves some day to be compelled to regret bitterly that he allowed the time to pass by.
Oh, it is indeed a shallow cleverness (no matter how much it brags or how loquacious it may be) that stupidly cheats itself out of the highest consolation, getting along with a mediocre and even less than mediocre consolation and ending in inevitable remorse. Even if the sufferer is able to use his cleverness in such a way as to give his double-mindedness a little better public appearance than is depicted here, that in no way affects the real situation. If he uses cleverness to hinder commitment to the Eternal, he is. double-minded. He is, and he remains double-minded, even, if temporal help did come and he did revel in the cleverness by which he had managed his shrewd escape; yes, one should still believe that it was a calamity that he cleverly; managed to evade commitment to the Eternal. Commitment to the Eternal is the only true salvation. Therefore it is also double-mindedness when the sufferer uses his strength to conceal the pain instead of letting himself be healed by the Eternal. Such a sufferer is not seeking release from the suffering but only from a sympathy, in so far as this also can be an affliction. Therein lies the contradictory character of double-mindedness. For only by commitment to the Eternal may he become really free from the painfulness of sympathy, since by the commitment he really overcomes the suffering. Hence only the wish pains, while the Eternal cures.
In relation to the sufferer, all double-mindedness has its ground in and is marked by the double-minded oneís unwillingness to let go of the things of this world. In the same way the double-minded talk that is from time to time addressed to the sufferer may be recognized by the fact that it puts its trust in the things of this world. It is only too often the case that the sufferer shrinks from receiving the highest comfort, and the speaker is ashamed to offer the highest consolation. Contrary to the truth, the consoling talk seeks to offer comfort by saying that the illness will soon be better -- perhaps; and begs for some little patience. It coddles the sufferer a little, and says that by Sunday all will surely be going well. Yet why give a pauper, if we may for a moment compare the sufferer with a pauper, silver or even counterfeit coin when one has a rich supply of gold to offer him? For the Eternalís comfort is pure gold. Let us remember the active one even though his suffering is always different from that of a real sufferer. We read of the Apostles,(Acts 5:40-41) that when they were scourged they went on their way rejoicing and gave thanks to God. Here there is no talk of having a little patience, and of things going well by Sunday; but here is found the Eternalís victorious comfort, and these scourged Apostles have more than conquered. So, too, shall it be with the true sufferer. For when the Eternal heals, the wish continues to pain (for the Eternal does not remove the sufferer from time), but there is no whining, no temporary distraction, no deceitful evasion. One knows well enough that when the true sufferer has whined himself through time and by all kinds of imaginings has managed to pass away the time or to kill time: still eternity stands open to him. Alas, no, the true sufferer must also answer for the manner in which he has used his time, answer for whether or not he has used the earthly misery to allow himself eternally to be healed. But cleverness asserts, "still, one should never give up hope." "You hypocrite," answers the Eternal, "why do you speak so equivocally? You know well enough that there is a hope that should be put to death; that there is a lust and a desire and a longing that should be slain. Earthly hope should be put to death, for in just this way did man first come to be saved by the true hope." Therefore the sufferer should never be willing to "accept deliverance" (Hebrews 11:15) on this worldís terms.