Sep18MonSeptember 18, 2017
In the second Scene of Act II of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” the Prince himself says to two minor bad guys, “Denmark's a prison.” What a thing for the Crown Prince of Denmark to say about the Scandinavian country he was in line to inherit.
A moment later, to respond to the reactions of the bad guys, and also to keep up his general gabbiness, Hamlet goes on, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.”
Turning from Shakespeare’s great play to my little book, we can compare the loquacious royal guy to Madame Guyon (1648-1717). Imprisoned by the Roman Catholic Church on charges of heresy, she wrote poems to express her trust in the Lord, and the inner freedom she experienced for the years she lived in a dark, underground cell in France. Here’s one well-known stanza.
A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air,
And in my cage I sit and sing
To him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleases thee.
The lady really was in a prison, but she referred to it as her cage. And there she sat, singing to the Lord, like a happy little bird, confident that in God’s plan for her, he had placed her there; because it pleased him to do so.
So here, in a castle, we have the deeply-tormented, always-talkative prince. And here, living in a deep hole, we have the “heretic.” And then there’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing letters from the Nazi prison, where in April, 1943, he had been placed by the Gestapo. To his brother-in-law, who was also imprisoned, he wrote, “You must know that there is not even an atom of reproach or bitterness in me about what has befallen the two of us. Such things come from God and from him alone … before him there can only be subjection, perseverance, patience-—and gratitude. So every question ‘Why?’ falls silent, because it has found its answer … What we cannot do, we must now simply let go of and limit ourselves to what we can and should do, that is, be manly and strong in trust in God in the midst of our suffering.”
Prince Hamlet was right about some things he said. Every thing that occurs to us is either good or bad as our own thinking makes it so. So if we, the people of Christ, think about our circumstances with “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), we will be guided in our interpretation of our circumstances by what we read in the Word of Christ.
This is what I am working on these days, as I continue to live in my very nice home, in my very nice neighbourhood, with Herr Bonhoeffer as my guide—and with his words as my script. Occasionally, I do think about the things I have loved and lost—things I must simply let go of—limiting myself to what I can and should do, (which perhaps includes blogging.)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging three weeks before the suicide of Hitler and the collapse of the Nazi regime.
“Every question ‘Why?’ falls silent.”