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Center for Action and Contemplation

Trouble Don’t Last Always

Thursday, December 5, 2019


Trouble Don’t Last Always
Thursday, December 5, 2019

Today I share the writing of a modern mystic, Dr. Diana L. Hayes. She is an author and professor emerita of systematic theology at Georgetown University. I appreciate how her writing integrates her intellectual knowledge with her deeply embodied life experience. Hayes’ words are a testament to the deeper “knowing” that comes about through bleak times of suffering:

Reality for blacks in the United States has always been one of seeming paradox. “Trouble” always seems to be in our way, regardless of the form it takes, from forced migration, slavery, second-class citizenship, to the constant enervating struggle with proponents of racism and the lack of opportunity for education, decent health care, and a life of dignity and happiness. Yet, through it all . . . we have been a people with our eyes “fixed” on God, a people for whom “trouble don’t last always.” . . .

My own life has enabled me to follow . . . the struggles of my people and to experience the pain of being “different” in too many ways to make life in this world, with its stress on conformity, an unvarnished blessing. . . .

My growing up years were ones split between bursts of athletic energy . . . and times of reflective quiet spent in bed reading while I recuperated from one illness or another.

Paradoxically, it was those quiet times which always gave me the strength to go back out into the world again. God has always seemed to come to me in days of pain-filled darkness and disillusionment, to hold my hand, to counsel me, to prepare me to go forth renewed in spirit and body. . . .

I wrestled with God on my bed of pain as I do still today . . . I argue and shout and listen and pray and question and doubt and finally acquiesce, only to move further down the path to another fork in the road where the struggle begins yet anew. . . .

I believe I have learned, because of my own struggles, how to see, hear, and feel the struggles of others, voiced and unvoiced. This has led me to explore theology . . . a new and challenging way—from the bottom up. I know what it is like to be poor, to be discriminated against because of my poverty, my race, my gender, and my disabilities. These many years of struggle and pain [physical, mental, and spiritual] . . . have forged me in the fiery furnace of God’s love. . . .

My life, a seeming paradox of contradictions and odd twists and turns, has truly been one where troubles of many different forms have always been in my way. Yet I know now, deep within me, that “trouble don’t always last.” God is not through with me yet.

I am touched by the way that Diana Hayes shares the struggles that have brought her into deeper solidarity with all who suffer and have shaped her reading of Scripture “from the bottom up.” Surely that is the point of any descent into darkness—to share the new kind of light we have discovered within it. 

Diana L. Hayes, No Crystal Stair: Womanist Spirituality (Orbis Books: 2016), 38, 39, 42, 43, 44.

Image credit: Helen Keller, no. 8 (detail), 1904, Whitman Studio, The Helen Keller Foundation; colorist, Jared Enos.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Not knowing or uncertainty is a kind of darkness that many people find unbearable. . . . The very meaning of faith stands in stark contrast to this mindset. We have to live in exquisite, terrible humility before reality. In this space, God gives us a spirit of questing, a desire for understanding. In some ways it is like learning to “see in the dark.” —Richard Rohr
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