Eric Butterworth Speaks: Essays on Abundant Living #72
Delivered by Eric Butterworth on September 9, 1975
Q. Here is a particularly sad question from one of our listeners. “A young girl, playing with her father’s revolver, was fatally injured when it accidently went off. The distraught family is asking how God could have permitted such a thing to happen?” Well, it is easy to blame God for human mistakes. I happen to have an antipathy toward guns, and I abhor the kind of thinking that had the gun in the house in the first place, not to mention allowing it to be accessible to a child. There is something about the very presence of a gun that demands its use. A playwright has remarked that if you hang a gun on the wall in the first act, you must make use of it by the third act. There is a certain gun-consciousness that attracts unwanted experiences. But the point is that the tragic event has happened. What can be done about it? In any case, be very sure that God is not to blame.
This attitude of blaming God can lead to all sorts of other questions, such as why doesn’t God stop wars, or heal this condition, or how could He have permitted that accident to happen? Know rather that we live and move and have our being in this great omnipresence which is God; each of us is an individualized expression of God. We use God-power whether it is to rise to success and achievement or to flounder in mediocrity and uselessness; whether that God-power is used putting guns in private homes or used for eliminating firearms for all but essential use; whether we enjoy radiant health or suffer from disease or other restricting conditions. Place the gear of your automobile in reverse and the power will carry you backward, shift into first and the very same power will carry you forward.
However, after an event such as this it is very typically human to ask why. But there are two categories of why, the why that gazes backward and the why that peers forward. Looking backward gains nothing; why did we ever allow the child to touch the gun, why did we purchase the gun in the first place? These are exercises in futility. It is all done—sad, tragic, but done nonetheless. Now that it is over, irrevocably, ask the why of what blessing can be brought out of it. Looking forward, ask why the accident occurred. In what way can this lead us to ultimate unfoldment? This is the why of forecast, a creative form of why. Job struggled with the question: Why should I, a good man, suffer? But Job suffered not as punishment for wrongdoing, but in the demonstration of the law of consciousness. Satan represented a state of consciousness, believing’ in error, sickness, poverty, adversity. This poor family that suffered this tragedy believed in evil, in danger, in violence; they would not afflict it on others—it took the form of acquiring a gun and keeping it in their house for protection against what they believed in.
Job probably harbored deep fears of the very things that were to happen to him, because afterwards he exclaimed, “That which I fear has come upon me.” The question why do the good suffer must be answered because they are not good enough, in the ab- solute sense, of oneness with God in thought as well as in action. Job finally ceased asking the why of resistance and began realizing his oneness when he said, There is a spirit in man and the inspiration of the Almighty gives him understanding.’
Instead of wondering why God doesn’t do this or that,it should really be asked why doesn’t man do it. We cannot contract the infinite, but we can expand the finite; we must expand our awareness to the point of conviction that we are dealing with a power to which all things are possible, for better or worse. The loss of the life of this child will not have been in vain if her parents and other parents realize that their households must be rid of the fear-consciousness that led to leaving a weapon around haphazardly. Achieving this, they can then begin to look forward to a new expression and a new experience of God as a radiant activity in their existences. The daughter cannot be brought back; there is seldom any use in looking back, but this experience can be built upon in consciousness,thus actually rendering their own lives creative and fulfilling; in a sense living out in expression that which they had hoped to live out through their daughter.
Life must be a forward-moving experience, and there is no place for the question why did God permit such and such a thing to happen. God is wisdom, God is love, God is the omnipresent support—ours to use, and if we do so in a constructive way, then our lives will be worthwhile and we will enjoy protection. So, from such experiences, let’s all make sure that we go forward, living out into expression a consciousness of the activity of God, the wisdom of God, the love of God in a creative way. Our hearts go out to this particular family and to other similar families; we love them and bless them and we pray with them that they may be strengthened and guided above this seeming loss and feelings of guilt to develop a perfect expression of their lives.
Q. Another frequent question we receive is that when I speak of youthfulness and the concept of eternal life, various listeners feel quite disheartened because they are not as young as they once were. A modern dilemma is the result of the cult of youthfulness. Advertising, entertainment, music, clothing design—all point to our preoccupation with slim figures, “with-it” surroundings and cosmetics, and of being a certain chronological age and no more. But, just think, why would anyone want to look or feel or act as he did thirty years ago? To go backward is miserable, to go forward is the thing! Maturity cannot be defined as old age; maturity is wisdom—it presupposes sophisticated judgement, and true beauty is an acquired capacity to be interested and interesting. With less dwelling on the appearance of the body and more emphasis on what goes on in the mind we find the true meaning of youthfulness. Jesus said, “It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing.’ The depth of living counts, the number of years you have to your credit matter not at all. Live always in the deep foreverness of now, in this sense discovering beauty and youthfulness from within out. It will not be just another cosmetic paste-on, it will have nothing to do with hairstyles and beauty treatments; it will be the truly beautiful and renewing result of a youthful spirit that comes out of consciousness of oneness with the eternal dimension of life—one of depth, not of length of years.
Q. “How are we to understand and interpret the ‘thorn in the flesh,’ which Paul the Apostle is said to have been plagued with all his life as an untiring missionary?” We do not know exactly what the “thorn” was physically, but the important thing is what was it psychologically? It may have been some sort of birth defect, or acquired disease, or even a periodic mental lapse that he underwent from time to time. George Lamsa has advanced the idea that Paul was dismayed by the realization that he had never seen or known Jesus, that he had come along too late to do so, and had thus missed the chance that others had enjoyed to be with Jesus and to benefit from receiving the consciousness of His presence directly—but this is all speculation.
The important thing for us, for you and me, is the realization, the observation, that the so-called “thorn in the flesh” had a positive, beneficial result—that Paul achieved not in spite of the thorn, whatever it was, but rather because of it. It goaded him on, kept him alive and alert, digging and working. In many ways all of us require some kind of a spur. Paul himself said, “For God is faithful. Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which ye are able, but will with the temptation provide also a way of escape.” In other words, God is a stable force, a mind-presence that will not acquiesce in any testing in your life that is beyond your abilities; He will rather through the testing provide a means of growth and unfoldment so that you can not only manage to endure the difficulty, the thorn in the flesh, but indeed grow and become a better person because of it. When challenged or saddened or restricted or handicapped, the important thing is not to search for some means to go through this thing in spite of it, but how you can grow through life because of it, making it a blessing, a veritable asset in the long run.
© 1975, by Eric Butterworth