"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Why Has God Done This?

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More often than I would like, in both hospital chaplaincy and parish work, I have heard a thought that goes something like this: Why had this (insert bad thing) happened to me? I have always tried to be good. Why has God done this to me?
An infirm man confined to a hospital bed asks, “Why are my lungs failing? What did I do wrong to make God so angry with me?”

You can work with those who suffer to teach about a God that comforts and loves and, most importantly, forgives. Some of the greatest spiritual growth comes in hospital beds discussing questions just like that.
It is much harder to reach out to those who apply the same reasoning to other people. These thoughts go something like this: Well, if he/she/they had been living a righteous life, God would not have punished them with (insert bad thing).

So one says to another, if you had not done this bad thing, God would not be causing you such suffering. Does that sound at all familiar? The reasoning goes back thousands of years and we find evidence of it in Job’s trials as his so-called friends come to help him through the horrific tragedy.

Eliphaz asks Job, “Think now. Who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?”(4:7) Bildad tells Job, “…if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore you to your rightful place” (8:6). The math is simple: innocent, pure and upright = a happy life… therefore an unhappy life = corrupt, impure and sideways.

This is just the sort of thing you need to hear from friends or family when your entire world has been shattered. The reason you are suffering with (insert bad thing) is because you are: a) not innocent; or b) not upright; or c) not pure; or d) all of the above. What has happened is your fault and God has only responded as you might expect.
Whew! Where is the log in one’s own eye in that? This holy blame game is such an easy answer to suffering; that is until the suffering turns to become ours.

Anne Graham (the daughter of Billy Graham) was asked after Sept 11th why God allowed the attack on the World Trade Center. She responded with an answer that would have fit perfectly in Eliphaz’s mouth: We have asked God to leave our schools, homes and businesses and as a gentleman that is exactly what God has done.

I have always wondered how that answer is received by those who lost spouses and children and loved ones in the twin towers attack. We ask God to leave = innocent people die.

All of these thoughts arise from a view of God that sees him as the all-mighty judge, powerful and harsh, a judge who weighs each of our lives and does not hesitate to punish when our naughty marks outweigh our nice. We spend all our lives trying to earn more plus marks to overcome all the minus marks.

The first problem is that we all suffer. Using a lack of suffering at some moment as proof that you are one of the innocent, upright and pure sets you up nicely to wind up in that hospital bed someday wondering why God is angry.

The second huge problem is that this reasoning excludes Christ. A Christ who came, bore all of our transgressions in a moment of infinite suffering, and then wiped the slate clean. God manifest through Christ is a God who says: “Oh yes that record of all your transgressions – we shredded that and burned it and scattered the ashes far and wide. There is no record left anywhere; it is all gone. You are God’s child and you are always, always welcome here. Come home and be at peace.”

Suffering is a part of being alive. What faith in Christ gives is a way to understand that suffering that wipes away all the judgement and blame that erases the words of the Eliphazes and Bildads of our lives.

You are valued by God more than you can even imagine – you, just as you are. That means you in completeness, not because you’ve managed to keep more gold stars than x’s; but because you are God’s child, beloved and welcomed.
“Come to me all you that labour and are heavy laden, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


Written by sameo416

June 17, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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