By Ben MacKinnon
Doing the “God” thing…
After a lively church service and a trip to Subway, my friend Beth and I were sitting in her car catching each other up on the emotional states of our lives. She had spent some time in Mexico and was talking about the details of her time abroad. Unfortunately, some things had transpired which rocked her faith in humanity. Consequently, her faith in God took a hit.
Like almost any rationally minded Christian in existence, Beth wanted to know how an infinitely powerful benefactor allows suffering to befall his people. She had seen some grotesque behaviors from people she saw as her support system, and didn’t see any connect between their depravity and God’s sovereignty. Worst of all, she felt guilty for her questioning God. She feels that the Christian community views doubt as superfluous; it’s merely a stepping-stone to faith instead of a genuine concern. She explained herself accordingly:
“Right now, I’m just not good at the whole God’ thing…”
I agreed with her. I doubt at times. Furthermore, I do it for good reasons. Whether its confusion found in the scripture, simple observation, or a friends attempt to explain the universe with a C.S. Lewis one-liner; I doubt when things don’t seem to line up. Beth felt that God hurts when people do, but why does he allow pain to happen? She goes to a Christian college, so she’s heard every single answer ranging from “there are no good people anyway” to “God uses suffering for his glory.” None of those answers were sitting well with her, and there are two good reasons for this:
- Those explanations are played out and trite.
- Beth isn’t dumb.
If doing the “God thing” is suspending reason in lieu of resolution, then Jesus was not into its practice. Jesus challenged the unquestioned religious practices of his time. Jesus wanted people to praise God in earnest instead of in pretense. Often in Jesus’ retorts to the Pharisees’ questioning employed simple reasoning. Take the Sabbath violation for example: Jesus didn’t used advanced theology to argue against the simple fallacy of those in charge.
The disciples had picked some wheat on the Sabbath because they were hungry. In typical letter-before-the-law fashion the Pharisees put the screws to Jesus and his followers. They wanted to know why Jesus’ followers were doing something unlawful on the Sabbath. Jesus had a very simple argument: why was this okay in the past? David not only picked wheat on the Sabbath, he ate the sacred loaves of bread behind the curtain in the sanctuary. Clearly, this was a much more grave offense than what Jesus’ followers did. He justified his ability to at least pick wheat because where David had authority Jesus had hundreds of years of prophecy leading up to his birth. No complex theological diatribes, no complicated scriptural interpretation, just a very simple line of logic.
Jesus didn’t run to the Pharisees and tell them to simply trust for now, and everything will be okay. Jesus addressed the issue directly. Unfortunately, this is one ability of Jesus the Christian body seems to have lost faith in as a whole.
Whenever a Christian asks the tough questions about God people run to their rescue. Somebody could be communicating the depth of the suffering of their soul, and all the Christian community offers them is canned dialogue about how God is bigger than them. It’s almost as if people could die at any possible minute and unless they have a comfortable faith at the moment they die they will spend their eternity in a flame broiling furnace.
A friend of mine died a few years back. She was eighteen years old and died from leukemia. At first I didn’t allow it to bother me so much with the hustle and bustle of my semester, but when I went on a spring break trip to Kentucky with a few friends, the suffering followed me out there. The pain one night was too much, and I had to remove myself from the festivities. I was angry with God for allowing one of his better servants to be killed off by cancer meanwhile I could go on a road trip for a week off my semester. A friend of mine, with the best of intentions, tried to pseudo-reason me out of my despondency. I only allowed his retorts to hit the ground in front of me; I needed time with God, not with debate.
As time went on, God met me in my place of contention, and helped me see the rationale behind his plan. I forgave my friend for his attempts at reconciling my faith, and I learned that God would provide for us when we are in need. Testing God is a different ballgame, and will yield only a wrestling match with the leviathan. Jacob wrestled God; he didn’t fight Him with malice.
As Christians, it’s time we moved our faiths out of the dark ages and allowed suffering to happen. Just as we allow a wound to heal in time, we need to stop applying the band-aids of superficial happiness to the scuffs and bruises of our circumstances. Faith isn’t just something we do, it’s something we are, and I think it’s time we traded doing the “God thing” for living the Godly lives by being honest with ourselves and with God. Let the pain happen, and let it happen to your friends. Be there for them, but trust that God is there too, and he won’t let them go far.
Ben is a fourth year student at the University of Delaware studying Mathematics Education. He writes as a hobby, and published his first book in December of 2008. You can read his other works, and even purchase his book at http://somedaypublished.com.