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The agony of God?

Updated: Sep 16, 2023





Please watch this video (link above) before you read the post. I had a profound experience this morning when I watched it and I know I have to share it with some of you who will also be puzzled by the effect it may have on you.

I have learnt through my teachers about the agony of God during the last couple of years and knew the concept was right because love is full of agony and God is love, but I could never really understand it or explain it to anybody. When I watched the video this morning, I felt agony in my solar plexus where I always feel the joy and the pleasure of the Lord. And I realised that I was feeling the agony of God for the first time. Or rather ... that I, for the first time, could connect what I have often felt and did not understand.

Love itself, as we all have learnt through the brokenness of this life, contains both pain and joy. Rejection and acceptance; being ignored and being cherished; feeling cut off and feeling connected; rejecting and accepting; hurting and being forgiven; betrayal and acknowledgment; both anger and tenderness. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that if God is in you, God experiences life through you. God sees life through our eyes and feels it through our skin. Jesus came to show us just how intimately God participates in this life.

What I saw this morning in the incredible contrast in the song and the images in the video, brought this home:

What I was feeling was what God had been feeling all the time since the brokenness intruded into the scene. From that moment, when Adam and Eve learnt that they could give AND withhold love; that they could choose between good and evil, and they chose to withhold affection, and love themselves more than they loved others, the possibility entered that God could experience agony. Their choice led to the first murder for the sake of own interest when Cain killed Abel and countless murders since then to protect and expand self-interest. This war is just such a choice - seemingly by one man who is using everything available to him to justify the means he is using to fulfil the desired self-seeking end. I realised that love can be withheld or shared. That is in essence what the metaphor of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents. When Love is withheld, God suffers and when Love is shared, God rejoices. For that is the essential character of love and God is love. To bring forth blessing; to incarnate the essence of God, love has to be shared ... the essence of God has to be freely shared.


And as it works in the Trinity, everything is about sharing. Withholding anything for self without freely sharing it, is unthinkable. Sharing love, is sharing the life of the Trinity. This kind of sharing may be costly for it requires total vulnerability and unconditional, sacrificial other-centredness. Every time Love is freely shared, God incarnates through that act. With that I mean that the unseen essence of God is made visible. The principle of free sharing and never withholding, that is the essence of the Trinitarian dance, is made visible. You can see and experience that in the beauty of Ukraine and of the things people have created in the video. That is the ecstasy of God. Every time love is withheld, as in the images of what the war has done to the beauty of the countryside and to what was created when love was shared, the image of the ecstasy of the Trinitarian essence is for a moment obscured. The incarnation of Love continues because love’s essence requires opposites to be manifested. It requires the pain of love, the agony of God to be shown. And what we experience, is the agony of God, the agony of love. And only God knows what it has cost God-self since the decision was made to share the Trinitarian essence to make it visible and attainable through creating a universe where the freedom exists to reject its Creator.

What vulnerability!

What level of humility must have motivated such a decision? The old adage comes to mind: "If you want to know whether a thing loves you, set it free. If it comes back to you, you will know."


Oh! All-vulnerable …

Oh! All-humble One,

Teach us to see the way you see … To be vulnerable and humble, to give without expectation, to share even our last crust of Love. To stand back, to give space to ourselves and one another … even to be wrong, even to reject us, even to kill us.

Teach us too to give till it hurts, to live till life is taken from us, if needed. Teach us to give and give and give. To never sell love, to never expect a return on investment, to be without entitlement and above all to be content in whatever may arise in this life.

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4 Comments


jannalafrance
jannalafrance
Feb 15, 2023

Thanks for sharing this, Stephan. I know I commented separately but I thought I‘d share this with the group here, for contemplation.

A thought I had was that, as we, the sons and daughters, commune with God—as His love manifests in and through us in all its forms—perhaps the agony itself becomes too much to bear. Maybe the agony gives way to the ecstasy for us. Maybe the agony causes us to let go of control completely, so that we do not withhold love, or anything. Maybe the agony side of love is what breaks the damn and causes the real torrent of transformative love to erupt from within the Church.

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Joe de Swardt
Joe de Swardt
Mar 20, 2022

Stephan, great piece of writing. Thank you.


So, what is love?


Instinctively and sub-rationally love somehow shimmers almost in sight on the periphery of vision.


Rationally, it is a sea of contradiction.


Is it your understanding that love is a pure, undeserved and unreserved giving of everything? Bottomless and never conditional sacrifice?


But, even more than that, giving as an act of divine association or worship?


So, giving up the coat, the planned journey an even a life for even an enemy as an act of faith that sees beyond the immediate physicality and hopes in a better reality to emerge because it is so planned by a Sovereign?


If a Putin figure march into Warwick, demand my house and…


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Stephan Vosloo
Stephan Vosloo
Mar 20, 2022
Replying to

What a comment Joe!!

Thank you so much. And who can answer those questions?

let them be like the blanket that covers my desire for security and my illusions of control. If Love is total sacrificial other- centeredness then one -in my mind - has to decide who is at the moment the one to give your life for. It may be your wife, your country, or …God forbid … the thug. As long as the question is not whether I should save my life at all cost or give it freely for someone else.

That question becomes irrelevant in the light of the total sacrificial other-centeredness of real Love.

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Hagan Nash
Hagan Nash
Mar 20, 2022

All human, self-centred instinct causes me to want to escape agony and pain. But seeing it as the agony of Love, of God, is just a breath-taking thought. Thank you for sharing your experience and helping us sink more deeply into the Love in us. To be content in whatever arises!

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