Kierkegaard on despair over pain and weakness

But the more consciousness there is in such a sufferer who wants in despair to be himself, the more the despair intensifies to become demonic. It usually begins like this: A self which in despair wants to be himself, suffers from some kind of pain which cannot be removed or separated from his concrete self. He then heaps upon this torment all his passion, which then becomes a demonic rage. If it should now happen that God in in heaven and all the angels were to offer to help him to be rid of torment – no, he does not want that, now it is too late. Once he would have gladly have given everything to be rid of this agony, but he was kept waiting, and now all that’s past; he prefers to rage against everything and be the one whom the whole world, all existence, has wronged, the one for whom it is especially important to ensure that he has his agony on hand, so that no one will take it from him – for then he would not be able to convince others and himself that he is right.  This finally fixes itself so firmly in his head that he becomes frightened of eternity for a rather strange reason: he is afraid in case it should take away from him what, from a demonic viewpoint, gives him infinite superiority over other people, what, from a demonic viewpoint, is his right to be who he is. Himself is what he wants to be. He began with the infinite abstraction of the self, and now has finally become so concrete that it would be impossible to become eternal in that sense, and yet he wants in despair to be himself. Ah! demonic madness; he rages most of all at the thought that eternity could get it into its head to take his misery away from him.

Kierkegaard, Sickness Unto Death.

I read this an felt as is a ghost passed through me. You know, the eerie feeling of being known. Only I seem to be known by a man centuries deceased.

Not that I am complaining. I am grateful for the connection. But here Kierkegaard illuminates my own soul, shining that light on my inner being. Such is the illuminating power of words. He doesn’t even specify any one vice, or weakness yet manages to connect so powerfully to my experience.

It goes something like this:

  1. I am conscious of those vices and failures which I am powerless against.
  2. I am driven to rage against these failures.
  3. I will no longer look to God to help me, not now.
  4. I cling to the pain from that wound as the source of my being, my raison d’être.
  5. I shrink in fear from the vast eternity of God, lest he should show himself so much more mighty than this painful thing which I cannot move.

Is is as though the pain which once attached itself to a part of me, I have now attached myself to and will cling to it as to a lifering in the sea. If I let go of it, I will drift away.

The question I think Kierkegaard raises to me is this:

Why are you afraid of drifting into God?


Add yours →

  1. Jonathan Williams April 26, 2013 — 2:51 pm

    A wise pastor once told me, “If you swim in shit long enough you’ll forget you’re swimming in shit.”

    It’s really hard to get out of that pool. Here’s to the grace of God that moves us towards the realization that we should swim somewhere else.

    Thanks for the great post.


  2. and what’s your answer?
    From reading past blogs could I humbly suggest it’s that you haven’t got a right view of who God is – and how He thinks of you?


  3. funny – I’ve never thought of God as rude and presumptuous – Deut 30 v 19!


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