The breath of people who are suffering is even worse. There's the sigh of grief, which is understandably sad. There's the moaning of those whose bodies are in pain and whose souls are anguished or who have lost everything. There are the outcries of people who are abused or being taken advantage of. There are shrieks of insanity, and screams of people who are hurt, and despairing groans. I hear and carry all of these. Those dreadful voices haunt me wherever I go. The multitude of human suffering rots my very soul. I hear it in the most humble homes, and in the fanciest mansions. I run from the battlefield to the monastery, but it does no good, because even seclusion doesn't keep sorrow away from people.
That's just not fair. You seem to be keeping such a detailed record of sighs and groans, but aren't you aware of their unceasing sounds of simple, natural joys? Maybe you can describe thousands of instances of sorrow, but I could respond by telling you about tens of thousands of joys. We enjoy peaceful years of health without a word of thanks and take every breath for granted for years. I'll bet you couldn't even count them! Try counting each breath as it floats up to you during the night while the sleeper passes a restful night. Count the breaths in a single morning, when the sleeper awakens to the dawn of a fresh, new day. Count the laughs of a child as he or she plays. Count the sweet expressions of happy lovers. You might be able to count the stars in the sky, but you could never count the daily evidences of routine earthly joys. How tragic to judge life only by its most jarring moments!
(From "The Deliverer"; on the lovers of pleasure / here, "those who lived for pleasure").
The hearts of everyone who heard the rumor thrilled with excitement. After all, who is so dense that they are unable realize how wretched their life is? Who doesn't look around and see that things should be better than they are? The people on the earth were only too aware of this. Death, sickness, endless hard labour, work done in vain, love that's not returned, stronger people triumphing over those who are right, wars, troubles, divided families, and a thousand other miseries of life--in every era, these things had plagued everyone from year to year. From one generation to the next, each person, as they became conscious of reason, came to realize the bitter, tragic fact that something was wrong with the world of their own time. At the same time, some strong instinct in their soul told them that it hadn't always been this way, and that it wouldn't be this way forever.
They knew that this Mighty One, whoever he was, would have different names: one of them was Prince of Peace. The burden of governing would be his responsibility, even though he would be born as a child.
Some latched onto the title "Prince of Peace," and thought everything could be explained by that. The conquering mentioned about him must mean that he would conquer and overcome strife. The superiority of Love would overcome all desires for conflict and everyone would work towards universal joy.
Surely when this Deliverer came, he would be able to make everyone happy and pour a healing tonic on every wound. Then all old sadnesses would be forgotten, and people's frustrated minds would be calmed, no longer troubled with struggles and difficult effort.
If only that day would come when everyone would be their own king or queen and realm, and the songs of rejoicing that gladdened the golden age could be heard all over the world! Isn't that what the prophets had said, and the poets had sung? Then every person would have their own grapevine or fig tree or arbour (or any other cool shady comfort zone) to sit under, and there would be no more poor or rich people because everybody would be equal, and everyone would be happy.
But when could they expect this Deliverer? Where would he come from? It would probably be in an unusually blessed part of the world, perhaps some beautiful, peaceful valley such as Cashmere, nestled among the Himalayan mountains. He would undoubtedly be living among a community of simple, contented people in a perfect family who never experienced turmoil and lived in happy harmony with each other. Such a person could only come from this kind of blissful, peaceful background--the kind of person who would cause harsh weapons of war to be turned into tools for farming the land, and would cause plants, animals, and even rocks to join together in one general song of joy.
So those who took that view looked for the Deliverer in peaceful valleys and quiet places where no disagreement ever happened. But they had no better luck--they kept on looking and waiting, and hoped Nature itself would confirm their hopes.
But humankind was on the wrong track. Even while darkness was blinding the minds, and earth was locked in the deadness of winter, while those who lived for pleasure hoped that the Deliverer would usher in earthly delights--the truth was, that the Immanent Will had chosen the common, unimportant things, and the things that are passed over so that "no person should have glory in the presence of a Greater Power."
That's right, He came in that very way while Nature was paralyzed and hopeless, and half the world was covered in freezing snow. He came in just that way, with healing on His wings--but not the kind of healing they were looking for. It wasn't deliverance from death or sadness, or freedom from pain, not even a payment to take away temptation and sin--but He came to make people "more than conquerors" through all of those things.
So go ahead and hang up holly and lights and tinsel over the winter landscape to remember the hope that human intelligence could never teach anyone. The Comforter did not arrive during the glorious days of summer. No, He came to His people when it was cold and dark. When important expectations come to nothing, that may be the time when He comes with healing on His wings to the soul of the humble person.