Saturday, April 09, 2011

Bonhoeffer and the Doctrine of Joy

Today is the anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's death. In an article I wrote last October I spoke about the circumstances surrounding Bonhoeffer's death and what we can learn from his example. More recently, however, my thoughts have turned towards the lessons we can learn from his life about joy and gratitude, especially during times of trial.

In an article I recently wrote for the Charles Colson Center, titled, "Gratitude and Joy in the Midst of Suffering," I pointed out that even in the midst of the agonizing circumstances of a Nazi prison, Bonhoeffer never ceased to overflow with gratitude towards the Lord. Facing the daily possibility of death, he regarded each day as a precious gift from the Lord, to be received with thankfulness and joy.

“I think we honor God more” Bonhoeffer once wrote “if we gratefully accept the life that he gives us with all its blessings, loving it and drinking it to the full.”

In the aforementioned article I point out that
It is doubtful that gratefulness came easy to Bonhoeffer, especially in the difficult days leading up to his execution. He had much to be troubled over and the temptation to grumble must have been great. During his days in prison the worst torment was his separation from his beloved fiancée, Maria, and the uncertainty of not knowing whether she was safe. Yet throughout these sufferings, Bonhoeffer remained exuberantly grateful to God.

One English officer, imprisoned with Bonhoeffer, later commented: “Bonhoeffer always seemed to me to spread an atmosphere of happiness and joy over the least incident and profound gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive.”

To read more, visit my article "Gratitude and Joy in the Midst of Suffering"
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