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Affliction

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A large soaptree yucca plant growing in the white sand of New Mexico's White Sand National Monument.

God Knows Our Troubles

It is literally true: "In all your afflictions he is afflicted. " "In all your triumphs he triumphs in and with you. " His prepersonal divine spirit is a real part of you. The Isle of Paradise responds to all the physical metamorphoses of the universe of universes; the Eternal Son includes all the spirit impulses of all creation; the Conjoint Actor encompasses all the mind expression of the expanding cosmos. The Universal Father realizes in the fullness of the divine consciousness all the individual experience of the progressive struggles of the expanding minds and the ascending spirits of every entity, being, and personality of the whole evolutionary creation of time and space. And all this is literally true, for "in him we all live and move and have our being. " ~ The Urantia Book, (1:5.16)

The Universal Father is the only personality in all the universe who does actually know the number of the stars and planets of space. All the worlds of every universe are constantly within the consciousness of God. He also says: "I have surely seen the affliction of my people, I have heard their cry, and I know their sorrows. " ~ The Urantia Book, (3:3.2)

The Greatest Affliction

The greatest affliction of the cosmos is never to have been afflicted. Mortals only learn wisdom by experiencing tribulation. ~ The Urantia Book, (48:7.14)

If man cannot otherwise appreciate Jesus and understand the meaning of his bestowal on earth, he can at least comprehend the fellowship of his mortal sufferings. No man can ever fear that the Creator does not know the nature or extent of his temporal afflictions. ~ The Urantia Book, (188:5.12)

Transient Afflictions

But one thing should be made clear: If you are made to suffer the evil consequences of the sin of some member of your family, some fellow citizen or fellow mortal, even rebellion in the system or elsewhere—no matter what you may have to endure because of the wrongdoing of your associates, fellows, or superiors—you may rest secure in the eternal assurance that such tribulations are transient afflictions. None of these fraternal consequences of misbehavior in the group can ever jeopardize your eternal prospects or in the least degree deprive you of your divine right of Paradise ascension and God attainment. ~ The Urantia Book, (54:6.4)

Some Causes - True and Untrue - for Affliction

The primitive mind may be handicapped by lack of facts, but it is for all that logical. When thoughtful men observe disease and death, they set about to determine the causes of these visitations, and in accordance with their understanding, the shamans and the scientists have propounded the following theories of affliction:

  1. Ghosts—direct spirit influences. The earliest hypothesis advanced in explanation of disease and death was that spirits caused disease by enticing the soul out of the body; if it failed to return, death ensued. The ancients so feared the malevolent action of disease-producing ghosts that ailing individuals would often be deserted without even food or water. Regardless of the erroneous basis for these beliefs, they did effectively isolate afflicted individuals and prevent the spread of contagious disease.

  2. Violence—obvious causes. The causes for some accidents and deaths were so easy to identify that they were early removed from the category of ghost action. Fatalities and wounds attendant upon war, animal combat, and other readily identifiable agencies were considered as natural occurrences. But it was long believed that the spirits were still responsible for delayed healing or for the infection of wounds of even "natural" causation. If no observable natural agent could be discovered, the spirit ghosts were still held responsible for disease and death.

    Today, in Africa and elsewhere may be found primitive peoples who kill someone every time a nonviolent death occurs. Their medicine men indicate the guilty parties. If a mother dies in childbirth, the child is immediately strangled—a life for a life.

  3. Magic—the influence of enemies. Much sickness was thought to be caused by bewitchment, the action of the evil eye and the magic pointing bow. At one time it was really dangerous to point a finger at anyone; it is still regarded as ill-mannered to point. In cases of obscure disease and death the ancients would hold a formal inquest, dissect the body, and settle upon some finding as the cause of death; otherwise the death would be laid to witchcraft, thus necessitating the execution of the witch responsible therefor. These ancient coroner's inquests saved many a supposed witch's life. Among some it was believed that a tribesman could die as a result of his own witchcraft, in which event no one was accused.

  4. Sin—punishment for taboo violation. In comparatively recent times it has been believed that sickness is a punishment for sin, personal or racial. Among peoples traversing this level of evolution the prevailing theory is that one cannot be afflicted unless one has violated a taboo. To regard sickness and suffering as "arrows of the Almighty within them" is typical of such beliefs. The Chinese and Mesopotamians long regarded disease as the result of the action of evil demons, although the Chaldeans also looked upon the stars as the cause of suffering. This theory of disease as a consequence of divine wrath is still prevalent among many reputedly civilized groups of Urantians.

  5. Natural causation. Mankind has been very slow to learn the material secrets of the interrelationship of cause and effect in the physical domains of energy, matter, and life. The ancient Greeks, having preserved the traditions of Adamson's teachings, were among the first to recognize that all disease is the result of natural causes. Slowly and certainly the unfolding of a scientific era is destroying man's age-old theories of sickness and death. Fever was one of the first human ailments to be removed from the category of supernatural disorders, and progressively the era of science has broken the fetters of ignorance which so long imprisoned the human mind. An understanding of old age and contagion is gradually obliterating man's fear of ghosts, spirits, and gods as the personal perpetrators of human misery and mortal suffering. ~ The Urantia Book, (90:3.3)

. . .Much of what a mortal would call good luck might really be bad luck; the smile of fortune that bestows unearned leisure and undeserved wealth may be the greatest of human afflictions; the apparent cruelty of a perverse fate that heaps tribulation upon some suffering mortal may in reality be the tempering fire that is transmuting the soft iron of immature personality into the tempered steel of real character. ~ The Urantia Book, (118:10.9)

Jesus Instructs the Apostles on Affliction

At this same time Jesus began to teach the twelve more fully concerning their mission "to comfort the afflicted and minister to the sick. " The Master taught them much about the whole man— the union of body, mind, and spirit to form the individual man or woman. Jesus told his associates about the three forms of affliction they would meet and went on to explain how they should minister to all who suffer the sorrows of human sickness. He taught them to recognize:

  1. Diseases of the flesh—those afflictions commonly regarded as physical sickness.
  2. Troubled minds—those nonphysical afflictions which were subsequently looked upon as emotional and mental difficulties and disturbances.
  3. The possession of evil spirits.

Jesus explained to his apostles on several occasions the nature, and something concerning the origin, of these evil spirits, in that day often also called unclean spirits. The Master well knew the difference between the possession of evil spirits and insanity, but the apostles did not. Neither was it possible, in view of their limited knowledge of the early history of Urantia, for Jesus to undertake to make this matter fully understandable. But he many times said to them, alluding to these evil spirits: "They shall no more molest men when I shall have ascended to my Father in heaven, and after I shall have poured out my spirit upon all flesh in those times when the kingdom will come in great power and spiritual glory. " ~ Jesus, The Urantia Book, (141:4.4)

The Good News is Healing

The apostles did some public work in Jericho, but their efforts were chiefly of a more quiet and personal nature. They now made the discovery that the good news of the kingdom was very comforting to the sick; that their message carried healing for the afflicted. And it was in Jericho that Jesus' commission to the twelve to preach the glad tidings of the kingdom and minister to the afflicted was first fully carried into effect. ~ The Urantia Book, (141:8.2)

The Healing at Sundown - Jesus Heals Hundreds of Their Afflictions

By the time Jesus and his apostles had made ready to partake of their evening meal near the end of this eventful Sabbath day, all Capernaum and its environs were agog over these reputed miracles of healing; and all who were sick or afflicted began preparations to go to Jesus or to have themselves carried there by their friends just as soon as the sun went down. According to Jewish teaching it was not permissible even to go in quest of health during the sacred hours of the Sabbath.

Therefore, as soon as the sun sank beneath the horizon, scores of afflicted men, women, and children began to make their way toward the Zebedee home in Bethsaida. One man started out with his paralyzed daughter just as soon as the sun sank behind his neighbor's house.

The whole day's events had set the stage for this extraordinary sundown scene. Even the text Jesus had used for his afternoon sermon had intimated that sickness should be banished; and he had spoken with such unprecedented power and authority! His message was so compelling! While he made no appeal to human authority, he did speak directly to the consciences and souls of men. Though he did not resort to logic, legal quibbles, or clever sayings, he did make a powerful, direct, clear, and personal appeal to the hearts of his hearers.

That Sabbath was a great day in the earth life of Jesus, yes, in the life of a universe. To all local universe intents and purposes the little Jewish city of Capernaum was the real capital of Nebadon. The handful of Jews in the Capernaum synagogue were not the only beings to hear that momentous closing statement of Jesus' sermon: "Hate is the shadow of fear; revenge the mask of cowardice. " Neither could his hearers forget his blessed words, declaring, "Man is the son of God, not a child of the devil. "

Soon after the setting of the sun, as Jesus and the apostles still lingered about the supper table, Peter's wife heard voices in the front yard and, on going to the door, saw a large company of sick folks assembling, and that the road from Capernaum was crowded by those who were on their way to seek healing at Jesus' hands. On seeing this sight, she went at once and informed her husband, who told Jesus.

When the Master stepped out of the front entrance of Zebedee's house, his eyes met an array of stricken and afflicted humanity. He gazed upon almost one thousand sick and ailing human beings; at least that was the number of persons gathered together before him. Not all present were afflicted; some had come assisting their loved ones in this effort to secure healing.

The sight of these afflicted mortals, men, women, and children, suffering in large measure as a result of the mistakes and misdeeds of his own trusted Sons of universe administration, peculiarly touched the human heart of Jesus and challenged the divine mercy of this benevolent Creator Son. But Jesus well knew he could never build an enduring spiritual movement upon the foundation of purely material wonders. It had been his consistent policy to refrain from exhibiting his creator prerogatives. Not since Cana had the supernatural or miraculous attended his teaching; still, this afflicted multitude touched his sympathetic heart and mightily appealed to his understanding affection,

A voice from the front yard exclaimed: "Master, speak the word, restore our health, heal our diseases, and save our souls. " No sooner had these words been uttered than a vast retinue of seraphim, physical controllers, Life Carriers, and midwayers, such as always attended this incarnated Creator of a universe, made themselves ready to act with creative power should their Sovereign give the signal. This was one of those moments in the earth career of Jesus in which divine wisdom and human compassion were so interlocked in the judgment of the Son of Man that he sought refuge in appeal to his Father's will.

When Peter implored the Master to heed their cry for help, Jesus, looking down upon the afflicted throng, answered: "I have come into the world to reveal the Father and establish his kingdom. For this purpose have I lived my life to this hour. If, therefore, it should be the will of Him who sent me and not inconsistent with my dedication to the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, I would desire to see my children made whole—and—" but the further words of Jesus were lost in the tumult.

Jesus had passed the responsibility of this healing decision to the ruling of his Father. Evidently the Father's will interposed no objection, for the words of the Master had scarcely been uttered when the assembly of celestial personalities serving under the command of Jesus' Personalized Thought Adjuster was mightily astir. The vast retinue descended into the midst of this motley throng of afflicted mortals, and in a moment of time 683 men, women, and children were made whole, were perfectly healed of all their physical diseases and other material disorders. Such a scene was never witnessed on earth before that day, nor since. And for those of us who were present to behold this creative wave of healing, it was indeed a thrilling spectacle.

But of all the beings who were astonished at this sudden and unexpected outbreak of supernatural healing, Jesus was the most surprised. In a moment when his human interests and sympathies were focused upon the scene of suffering and affliction there spread out before him, he neglected to bear in his human mind the admonitory warnings of his Personalized Adjuster regarding the impossibility of limiting the time element of the creator prerogatives of a Creator Son under certain conditions and in certain circumstances. Jesus desired to see these suffering mortals made whole if his Father's will would not thereby be violated. The Personalized Adjuster of Jesus instantly ruled that such an act of creative energy at that time would not transgress the will of the Paradise Father, and by such a decision—in view of Jesus' preceding expression of healing desire—the creative act was. What a Creator Son desires and his Father wills IS. Not in all of Jesus' subsequent earth life did another such en masse physical healing of mortals take place.

As might have been expected, the fame of this sundown healing at Bethsaida in Capernaum spread throughout all Galilee and Judea and to the regions beyond. Once more were the fears of Herod aroused, and he sent watchers to report on the work and teachings of Jesus and to ascertain if he was the former carpenter of Nazareth or John the Baptist risen from the dead.

Chiefly because of this unintended demonstration of physical healing, henceforth, throughout the remainder of his earth career, Jesus became as much a physician as a preacher. True, he continued his teaching, but his personal work consisted mostly in ministering to the sick and the distressed, while his apostles did the work of public preaching and baptizing believers.

But the majority of those who were recipients of supernatural or creative physical healing at this sundown demonstration of divine energy were not permanently spiritually benefited by this extraordinary manifestation of mercy. A small number were truly edified by this physical ministry, but the spiritual kingdom was not advanced in the hearts of men by this amazing eruption of timeless creative healing.

The healing wonders which every now and then attended Jesus' mission on earth were not a part of his plan of proclaiming the kingdom. They were incidentally inherent in having on earth a divine being of well-nigh unlimited creator prerogatives in association with an unprecedented combination of divine mercy and human sympathy. But such so-called miracles gave Jesus much trouble in that they provided prejudice-raising publicity and afforded much unsought notoriety. ~ The Urantia Book, (145:3.1)

On Praying for the Afflicted. . .

When you pray for the sick and afflicted, do not expect that your petitions will take the place of loving and intelligent ministry to the necessities of these afflicted ones. Pray for the welfare of your families, friends, and fellows, but especially pray for those who curse you, and make loving petitions for those who persecute you. "But when to pray, I will not say. Only the spirit that dwells within you may move you to the utterance of those petitions which are expressive of your inner relationship with the Father of spirits. " ~ Jesus, The Urantia Book, (146:2.11)

Jesus Advises the Afflicted

In speaking to those assembled, Jesus said: "Many of you are here, sick and afflicted, because of your many years of wrong living. Some suffer from the accidents of time, others as a result of the mistakes of their forebears, while some of you struggle under the handicaps of the imperfect conditions of your temporal existence. But my Father works, and I would work, to improve your earthly state but more especially to insure your eternal estate. None of us can do much to change the difficulties of life unless we discover the Father in heaven so wills. After all, we are all beholden to do the will of the Eternal. If you could all be healed of your physical afflictions, you would indeed marvel, but it is even greater that you should be cleansed of all spiritual disease and find yourselves healed of all moral infirmities. You are all God's children; you are the sons of the heavenly Father. The bonds of time may seem to afflict you, but the God of eternity loves you. And when the time of judgment shall come, fear not, you shall all find, not only justice, but an abundance of mercy. Verily, verily, I say to you: He who hears the gospel of the kingdom and believes in this teaching of sonship with God, has eternal life; already are such believers passing from judgment and death to light and life. And the hour is coming in which even those who are in the tombs shall hear the voice of the resurrection. " ~ Jesus, The Urantia Book, (147:3.3)

The Man Who Took Up His Bed and Walked

One man who had been many years downcast and grievously afflicted by the infirmities of his troubled mind, rejoiced at Jesus' words and, picking up his bed, went forth to his home, even though it was the Sabbath day. This afflicted man had waited all these years for somebody to help him; he was such a victim of the feeling of his own helplessness that he had never once entertained the idea of helping himself which proved to be the one thing he had to do in order to effect recovery—take up his bed and walk. ~ The Urantia Book, (147:3.5)

Jesus, On The Purpose of Affliction

"But, my son, you should know that the Father does not purposely afflict his children. Man brings down upon himself unnecessary affliction as a result of his persistent refusal to walk in the better ways of the divine will. Affliction is potential in evil, but much of it has been produced by sin and iniquity. Many unusual events have transpired on this world, and it is not strange that all thinking men should be perplexed by the scenes of suffering and affliction which they witness. But of one thing you may be sure: The Father does not send affliction as an arbitrary punishment for wrongdoing. The imperfections and handicaps of evil are inherent; the penalties of sin are inevitable; the destroying consequences of iniquity are inexorable. Man should not blame God for those afflictions which are the natural result of the life which he chooses to live; neither should man complain of those experiences which are a part of life as it is lived on this world. It is the Father's will that mortal man should work persistently and consistently toward the betterment of his estate on earth. Intelligent application would enable man to overcome much of his earthly misery.

"Nathaniel, it is our mission to help men solve their spiritual problems and in this way to quicken their minds so that they may be the better prepared and inspired to go about solving their manifold material problems. I know of your confusion as you have read the Scriptures. All too often there has prevailed a tendency to ascribe to God the responsibility for everything which ignorant man fails to understand. The Father is not personally responsible for all you may fail to comprehend. Do not doubt the love of the Father just because some just and wise law of his ordaining chances to afflict you because you have innocently or deliberately transgressed such a divine ordinance.

"But, Nathaniel, there is much in the Scriptures which would have instructed you if you had only read with discernment. Do you not remember that it is written: `My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction, for whom the Lord loves he corrects, even as the father corrects the son in whom he takes delight. ' `The Lord does not afflict willingly. ' `Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now do I keep the law. Affliction was good for me that I might thereby learn the divine statutes. ' `I know your sorrows. The eternal God is your refuge, while underneath are the everlasting arms. ' `The Lord also is a refuge for the oppressed, a haven of rest in times of trouble. ' `The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of affliction; the Lord will not forget the sick. ' `As a father shows compassion for his children, so is the Lord compassionate to those who fear him. He knows your body; he remembers that you are dust. ' `He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ' `He is the hope of the poor, the strength of the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, and a shadow from the devastating heat. ' `He gives power to the faint, and to them who have no might he increases strength. ' `A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax he will not quench. ' `When you pass through the waters of affliction, I will be with you, and when the rivers of adversity overflow you, I will not forsake you. ' `He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to comfort all who mourn. ' `There is correction in suffering; affliction does not spring forth from the dust. '" ~ Jesus, The Urantia Book, (148:5.3)

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