I have been a fan of classical literature for a long time. Although I am a Christian, I think that the pagan world before Christ still has much to offer us in their search for beauty, goodness, and truth. After all, even the pagans are made in the image of God, and the Apostle Paul thought it appropriate to quote the pagan Greek poets (Menander, Aratus, Epimenides) in his sermons and epistles when they agreed with divine revelation. (See Acts 17:22-28 and Titus 1:12.)

So, the other day I was reminded of a very thought provoking quote by one of my favorite Greek playwrights, Aeschylus. In the play Agamemnon, the people struggle with violence, vengeance, grief, justice, and reconciliation (kinda like our world today). In lines 179 to 183 we have these amazing truthful words by Aeschylus:

“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart. And in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us–by the awful grace of God.”

The word “awful” there does not mean “wrong” or “bad”. The Greek word there means “harsh”. The pagan author, I think, had some insight into divine grace. God’s unmerited favor is not cozy and comfortable. We learn best under trial, not when we are relaxing at the beach. Sometimes, many times, His grace that comes into our lives is harsh–not to harm us, but to shake us and move us–to convict us and to change us. Divine wisdom is learned no other way.

And on that note, both the pagan Greeks and the authors of the Bible would agree.