A Thought For You If You Feel Separated from Someone This Christmas

YOUR WEEKLY PRESCRIPTION OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

For standing up to Hitler and his evil regime Bonheoffer was imprisoned.  While in prison he wrote a lot of correspondence between family and friends.  The following is an excerpt of a letter he wrote at Christmas Eve in 1943.For those of you who may be separated this Christmas from loved ones either by death, distance, or dire circumstances, this should prove encouraging to you.

I should like to say something to help you in the time of separation that lies ahead.  There is no need to say how hard any such separation is for us; but as I’ve been separated for nine months from all the people I’m devoted to, I should like to pass on to you something of what I have learnt.  

First: nothing can make up for the absence os someone whom we love, and it would be wrong to find a substitute; we must simply hold onto see it through.  That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfulfilled, preserves the bonds between us.  It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; on the contrary; he doesn’t fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain. 

Secondly: the dearer and richer our memories, the more difficult the separation.  But gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.  The beauties of the past are borne, not as a thorn in the flesh, but as a precious gift in themselves.  We must take care not to wallow in our memories or hand ourselves over to them, just as we do not gaze all the time at a valuable present, but only at special times, and apart from these keep it as simply as a hidden treasure that is ours for certain.  In this way the past gives us lasting joy and strength. 

Thirdly: times of separation are not a total loss or unprofitable for our companionship, or at any rate they need not be so.  In spite of all the difficulties that they bring, they can be the means os strengthening fellowship quite remarkably. 

Fourthly: I’ve learnt here that especially that the facts can always be mastered, and that difficulties are magnified out of all proportion simply by fear and anxiety.  From the moment we awake until we fall asleep we must commend other people wholly and unreservedly to God and leave them in his hands, and transform our anxiety for them in to prayers on their behalf:

With sorrow and with grief…

God will not be distracted

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