Hugo describes Fantine’s pitiful decline as an inevitable outcome: “in vain we chisel, as best we can, the mysterious block of which our life is made.” But all through his book he still credits individuals with good works that make a difference to others. What do we make of such contradiction.

The recent appearance in our lives of my wife’s breast cancer has made me wonder about inevitability. I believe in Jesus as my Redeemer. And I believe that God is in control of all events past, present and future and will not allow anything to happen to me that is not “for my good.”. I also believe that He is interactive with me in a relationship so that I can exercise influence on events through prayer.

Here is the dialectic dynamic of “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” And I cannot explain this apparent contradiction.

But, I know that God has raised me to a new life. I know this from my personal experience with Him directly. My direct experience has opened up my eyes to a view from eternity that is transcendental, being moved by Him within my emotions and mind, and (2) having heard Him speak through words and visions. So I must trust Him.

My mother-in-law has a different sort of extreme view. She believes that we (not God) have control over circumstances of our own lives by our faith and words. She actually shuns deep emotional conversation with her daughter because by bringing herself to say words of reality-based discussion, she feels as if she is losing the battle to have victory in her circumstances. This seems like superstition to me, but there are certainly traces of similar superstitious thinking in my own mind. Have I prayed long and hard enough? Or worse, am I good enough so that my prayer is effectual?

Midas, King of Phrygia in Greek mythology, interacted with the god Dionysius. He wished everything he touched could turn to gold. Dionysius warned him about potential dangers of such a wish, Midas insisted, so Dionysius granted him the wish. Subsequently Midas found himself isolated in his material world.

The isolation of a soul into a material world of health and wealth comforts reminds me of Midas. Perhaps His plan is to extricate us from the busyness and cares of this world? And I am trying to understand the mind of God. Why? So that I can control my own life by my reason. “Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, but is captive and proves weak or untrue.”

It is Donne’s cry and mine in these final lines of that sonnet:

Yet dearely I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again;
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.