What God "Gives" Us - A Cautionary Tale
"It's God's will." "God only gives you what you can handle." "When God closes one door, God opens another."
Have you ever found yourself saying something like this, or having someone say something like this to you?
These little sayings, as well as the quote above and others like them are too often thrown around with little to no regard for what they actually infer - and that's where I've always had a huge problem.
Firstly, let me say that I get what people are trying to say when they throw sayings like these around: things happen beyond our control, we each have the strength to get through our darkest and most difficult times, and the opportunity for finding new beginnings when all we see around us are imminent endings is always before us.
Why do we need to say that God makes it all happen, even if for our benefit? What that truly infers as a basis for Belief or Faith really, truly troubles me. Let me explain:
I have always resonated with the image of God as Loving Parent; perhaps because I've been blessed with a set of loving parents myself, one of whom is a minister like me. I, likewise, endeavor to share God's abundant, unconditional love in the way I love my own children (though I'm not always very successful at that, if we're gonna be honest).
So it always begs the question for me: what loving parent, in their right mind, would put their child through pain, loss, disease, divorce, the death of a child, or all the myriad nightmares of suffering that we encounter in the news everyday just to prove a point and make their child "grow?"
It's God's will? Seriously? Do we really want to believe in a God that is the architect of suffering and tragedy? If we do, that opens up a Pandora's Box of the slipperiest of slopes...because taken to its fullest measure, that means that God "causes" cancer, AIDS, poverty, abuse, natural disasters...
All so we can learn something? All because God knows we can handle it and wants to prove the point?
That's a cruel way to teach a lesson, and I don't know too many people that would think that was great parenting.
And if I testify to a Faith that at the heart of all things, God is Love...what kind of Love causes suffering just to prove a point?
Does God "give" us tragedy to show us how strong we are and that we can find new beginnings, or does God provide us with the strength and Vision to see ourselves through circumstances we would otherwise deem impossible to survive? Is God the cause of tragedy beyond our understanding, or is God a reservoir of Hope in the face of such tragedy that is simply a fact of our Human Journey?
The answer we provide for people seeking answers to such questions can sometimes drive people away from Church, away from Faith, and away from any sense of God altogether.
I wish we'd take a little more care when we decide to say things we think are helpful and hopeful in the face of tragedy; especially when we simply don't know what to say; which is often the basis for sharing such sayings in the first place.
What do we really think God is "giving" us? Let's take a little more care about considering the answer to that question...we might likewise take a bit more care about how we share our understanding of God's love to those who most desperately need it.