Thursday, May 8, 2014

When God Doesn't "Bless"

This is one of those topics that you can't really discuss in the evangelical sub-culture.  If you do, you instantly create this aura of awkwardness. After all, if you live right, God always blesses . . . right? While I was thinking of a personal story, I will start with one of a friend.

About seven years ago, a good friend (and Christian) of mine was diagnoses with leukemia. I will never forget when he first broke the news to me.  We were the same age and same vulnerability, so his cancer was really close to home.  He smiled and said, "Don't worry. My doctor says it is the best kind of leukemia to have.  At least ninety percent of victims have a full recovery."

To make a long story short, within two weeks he was hospitalized.  He was very, very sick.  Every treatment known was tried on him, including several experimental treatments.  All failed. Three weeks later he was sent home to die and he did. He died less than 24 hours after he was sent home.

His wife told me that the oncologist told her that my friend's cancer had taken the most horrible course possible.  Even though I knew them within a church setting, I'm glad that I never heard anyone trying to spiritualize things, like we use to in my evangelical days. You know the narrative, "God did this for a reason."  Or maybe, "This was straight from Satan because he knew he was a great guy."

But their situation led to silence. No one spoke about it period.  How could you?  God allowing a good man to have the 10% worst outcome?  It would beg the questions of if God was there and if He is, then does He really love us?

I don't want to talk about my situation too much so I don't sound like a whiner. But I'm own a medical practice that is incredibly successful, with schedules packed with patients.  Yet, for reasons that neither I or the crowd of experts I've had looking at it can figure out, we have been terrifying close to bankruptcy for three years.  Yeah, I feel frustrated, depressed and most of all, exhausted.  I could easily be drawn into self-pity.

But defying the odds of business, I'm failing.

The question far transcends my own personal journey and one huge "dark matter" of the spiritual universe.  What happens when you defile the odds and fail?  When it goes the other way, 10% chance of success and you succeed, you have a lot of self-praise and God-praise.  It is easy to say, "God blessed."  But what do you say when the plane crashed with two hundred people on board and your loved one, a great person, is the ONLY one harmed?

I know of no meta narrative that makes sense of this except for the laws of probability.  If there is just a 1% chance of failure, then when one hundred people are involved, one will fail.

I think we need to discuss failure much more often in our Christian circles. Failure must be part of the Christian lexicon. If you don't believe that it is, then you will be surprised, in a negative way, when it comes to you.  Then God becomes detached from your person.


Virginia said...

As Peter Rollins said in "The Idolatry of God", we are addicted to certainty and satisfaction, and we want a "good" God to provide them. So we create a God in our own image who should give us these things. And when he does not then our world tilts, and we have to ignore it all to climb back on the religious bus.
Buddhism teaches people to live WITH this unsatisfactory existence and to expect nothing less. Christianity misses the boat on this.

Hope T. said...

I have recently come across the writings of Jim Palmer. I don't know if you have heard of him but I think you would like his ideas. Here is a blog post that is closely related to your post:

NormalDiedWithMax - A Moms Journey of Grief said...

I have also thought this way since my son was killed. My beautiful, talented, Godly son. God is good, God is faithful, and God allowed my son to be killed. There is no way to reconcile this without submitting to the authority of God and waiting until eternity to understand.

j. Michael Jones said...

The only difference between this post and the Jim Palmer one, is that he has done a much better God. That is the great Mystery that we can't even try to understand. God is there. He loves us. He is all powerful, yet He created a real world that is dangerous and where horrible things happen, things that will one day find a balm and a restoration.