Boethius, Happiness and Blessedness

“is it weird that whenever stuff goes wrong, I am still okay, because I just assume it was part of God’s plan?”

Having just said goodbye to the 25 or so people who come to my house Tuesday nights for dinner and friendship, I fielded that question from one friend who asked to stick around to talk after everyone left.

It was a great question that quickly led us into the deep waters of faith and trust in God. Discovering, or rediscovering, faith in God should lead us to feel peace and trust in all circumstances, but my friend worried that he was veering off into an unhealthy perspective of determinism, the belief that everything (like EVERY-SINGLE-THING everything) is predetermined, leaving our decisions and actions to become increasingly meaningless as more and more of the world seems to be fixed. Our sinful hearts are easily capable of taking a good thing - a belief in the sovereignty of God - and pervert into a bad thing. What is supposed to give hope and meaning, suddenly leads us toward meaninglessness, leaving us with no hope to see the change we want to see in our hearts and lives. It was a good question.

As we talked, a book I read in college, the Consolation of Philosophy, came to mind. In this book, the author, Boethius, writes of how philosophy (wisdom) consoled his soul when he was downcast, having been wrongfully imprisoned. The crux of the argument was simply that Fortune (a personification of luck, circumstance, or arbitrary feelings) was wheel spinning with man on top of it. When we are on top of the spinning wheel, life is good, but there is only one way to go as the wheel spins. Fortune, in her fluid and continually changing nature, could not provide any lasting happiness, which is why we need something unchanging to give us something more than happiness. We need God, the unchangeable divine, to give us blessedness, not happiness.

The great challenge for someone discovering faith in God is to embrace the blessedness he offers, without denying the truth that we are still running on the wheel of fortune. We are fully present in this world, with all her joys and sorrows, while full of hope for the next world, where the wheel of fortune stops, and we step out onto the solid ground of eternal blessedness.

It is not weird for the Christian to feel peace in the midst of misfortune, it is a demonstration of the stabilizing blessedness of God’s presence.

Whitney Clayton