from Chapter 4
“Pain and Pleasure”
Augustine’s Confessions contains a remarkably similar passage. “What is it, therefore,” he begins, “that goes on within the soul, since it takes greater delight if things that it loves are found or restored to it than if it had always possessed them?” Augustine proceeds to mention a victorious general who experiences the greatest satisfaction when the danger is greatest, a seafarer who exults in calm seas after a violent storm, and a sick man who upon recovery walks with a joy he had never known before his illness.Yancey, Philip. Where Is God When It Hurts? (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1990), 57.
“Everywhere a greater joy is preceded by a greater suffering,” Augustine concludes. Like other church fathers, he understood that depriving some senses, such as through fasting, heightened others. Spiritual experience is nourished best in the wilderness.
When I am old, I hope I do not spend my days between sterile sheets, hooked up to a respirator in a germ-free environment, protected from the hazards of the world outside. I hope I’m on a tennis court, straining my heart with a septuagenarian overhead smash. Or perhaps on a final hike, huffing and puffing along a trail to Lower Yosemite Falls for one more feel of the spray against my wrinkled cheek. In short, I hope I do not so insulate myself from pain that I no longer feel pleasure.
Augustine of Hippo. The Confessions of St. Augustine, translated by John K. Ryan (Image Books: Garden City, NY, 1960), 186.