Fyodor Dostoevsky, the great 19th century Russian author of The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, and Notes from the Underground, suffered greatly. He grew up with an abusive father, lived with epilepsy, was nearly executed in a political mess (and consequently spent years in a Siberian prison) was poor his whole life, had a gambling addiction, and lost his three – year – old son Alexei to illness.
But Dostoevsky is also recognized as one of the world’s greatest Christian writers, his works containing themes of redemption and the cleansing power of suffering. This is very much reflected in his works, and the characters who sink the lowest are often those who find peace and the self proclaimed righteous are put down.
In The Brothers Karamazov Alexei Karamazov is preparing for a life as a monk. He hides from a broken family life in the monastery in an attempt to rid himself of the sensuality that pervaded and wrecked his family. But Alexei’s mentor at the monastery, the Elder Zosima, urges him to go out in the world, saying that faith can only be sincere unless it is tested. Alexei’s faith could not be tested within the monastery, and Christianity and being a believer would not save him from his suffering.
In the same way, being a Christian does not make life easy. A life in Christ did not stop the suffering of the original twelve apostles, or many early Christians, or of Dostoevsky, or of countless others.
Yet suffering, as Dostoevsky believed has an incredible cleansing and grounding power. It is in spite of pain and suffering that we believe. If God can redeem Mary Magdalene, the thief on the cross, and those that killed His son, then we can also be redeemed and saved.
Lord by Thy passion may we learn to endure suffering and by it ever seek Thy mercy and peace.
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use.