The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (Is. 9:2)
It is Advent. I find this time of year always has the theme of darkness and light, with the most important focus being on the coming of true Light into the world.
This year the darkness is palpable; devastation and suffering beats in our hearts. As I go through my days, speaking with and listening to others, reading what they have to say, I sense that our yearning for wholeness, for security, for peace is as great as ever it was in those biblical times so long ago.
In this issue we bring you challenging reflections on the attack on the United States. Scott Simon, in "Reflections on the Events of September 11" (p. 16), articulates his reservations about whether absolute pacifism is viable in confrontation with radical evil. His remarks are thought-provoking and merit thoughtful consideration. I am certain he is not alone among Friends these day in raising questions about the Peace Testimony and how effective—or not—it can be in responding to terrorists. I suspect that each generation of Friends must discover for itself the dimensions and import of this testimony.
John Paul Lederach, in "The Challenge of Terror: A Traveling Essay" (p. 21), urges us as a nation to think and respond differently than we have been conditioned to do. Like Scott Simon, he cautions that we not approach this moment in history with methods that reflect past conflicts, but rather that we seek to do the unexpected. The terrorists, he says, "have not faced down the enemy with a bigger stick. They did the more powerful thing: they changed the game." Our task is to "change the game again," to "give birth to the unexpected," and to help our suffering world find its way to new, more secure, more whole relations amongst its peoples.
Carol Reilley Urner, Maia Murray, and Thomas Jeavons each have contributed articles that ask the question about human suffering—"Why?"—and lead us through their reflections on personal suffering to a hard-won affirmation of faith and trust in God. "God teaches. God loves. God experiments. God seeks us out, calls us, and requires much of us. We are to listen, we are to say ‘Yes,’ and . . . we never know where the ‘Yes’ will lead. It will often lead us into suffering, for we must accompany others in their suffering if healing is to occur," writes Carol Reilley Urner, during her own healing, as she strives to come to terms with the automobile accident that took her husband’s life and left her critically injured. My own observation is that when we ask "why" we must take care to remember that God does not promise to spare us suffering—even Jesus was not spared this. I believe our task is to permit suffering to lead us to the "birth of the unexpected": the miracle of healing, redemption, and resurrected lives.
In the darkness of these times, we here at Friends Journal feel truly blessed to have this good work to do and to have you, our remarkable readers, for whom to do it. We send you our warmest greetings as we seek together to articulate the leadings of the Spirit and to bring greater light into the world. Our hope and prayer for all of us, and for the world, is that we will know deeply in our hearts the "peace that passes all understanding," and that we will be led by joy, compassion, and love.