Research That Chastens the Researcher
Some readers may wonder whether doing research is merely a dry, academic and clinical exercise. For me I can say that it is not. Recently as I was doing some reading for the third chapter of my dissertation, I had reason to read Gerald C. Cragg's Puritanism in the Period of the Great Persecution, 1660-1688 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957). While I was seeking to understand the general background of Puritanism and the rise of Deism I was reminded of the trials and tribulations that our heroes of the faith went through simply because they refused to confirm to the uniformity of the Church of England of that day. Cragg goes into some bit of detail explaining the various modes of harassment which Puritans would have experienced (admittedly sporadic and uneven) and what life was like in a prison. This was all informative. But it was more than informative. If you are like me, you sometimes experience times of discouragement and discontentment with how our great and loving God exercises his divine providence. As children of our heavenly Father we often think we know better how our lives should unfold. Reading about the various trials that Puritans faced was chastening in that I was reminded that my struggles are minor compared to these folk. And of course it also reminded me that I have brothers and sisters all across the world who face similar and worse experiences. Brothers and sisters in Christ face not merely disappointment and frustration and discontentment and so on, but actually face persecution and death for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. My concerns are rather petty and while not insignificant, pale in the face of such knowledge. Research, then, can have salutary effects beyond increasing our store of knowledge. God sometimes uses research to correct our myopic vision. God uses the discovery of past experiences to relativize our complaints. Of course none of this compares to the suffering and pain endured by our Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation. Jesus began to suffer at the incarnation and suffered all throughout his earthly ministry. That all culminated in the suffering our Lord endured at Gethsemane and Calvary. Praise be to God that that suffering was crowned by a great and grand resurrection! I for one am thankful for the serendipitous blessings of hitting the books.