Wednesday, February 4, 2009
platitudes, part 2
The Value of $300, by Scott Erickson
After I posted yesterday, I started feeling like maybe I was just grumpy and that I shouldn't have been so negative and ranting. But then your comments let me know that I had hit a vein and maybe there was some truth behind the grumpiness. That being said, I also want to acknowledge that, for many people, offering these little sayings (trite as they may be) is their best attempt to care for a hurting friend, and it comes from a place of love and concern. I don't mean to belittle those people, but more to challenge all of us to think more deeply about what we really have to offer those who are hurting.
So here's the promised follow-up to yesterday's post.
When people say things like "If [insert unfavorable event here] happened, that just means there is something better out there for you," this is what I interpret it to mean: God would only take away whatever good thing you've lost if His plan was to give you something even better to replace it. That sounds nice and comforting. What a fair and reasonable God we have, right?
The problem I have with this (besides its obvious lack of Biblical foundation), is that it essentially takes our massive, mysterious God and shrinks Him down to be the God of privileged upper-middle class people who went to college and always know where their next meal is coming from. Because, truthfully, those are often the only people who have a reasonable shot at "something better" coming along. This version of God has nothing to say to most of the world. He only makes sense to people who are already rich, safe, and healthy. What does this God have to offer an AIDS orphan in Kenya? What will He do for a coke baby born to teenage parents in Detroit? Doesn't it sound completely ridiculous and even offensive to say, "Cheer up kid, God wouldn't have taken away your healthy central nervous system if He didn't have something better in mind for you down the road!"
In the circles I run in (and I'm guessing you're probably no different), most of us are rich, safe and healthy, so it's easy to slip into the mindset that God's top priority is for us to stay that way. But if that's the case, then He is not the God of the orphaned, the poor, and the sick. The Bible says otherwise: A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:5) So how do we reconcile these things? What hope can we offer people, whether they are dealing with a loss on their six-figure retirement account or struggling to break the cycle of poverty in a third-world country?
Only this: Our story ends well, because we have the victory in Jesus Christ. Your story ends well, when you claim the victory of Jesus Christ. Of course, our stories do not always end well in this life. Jesus himself was murdered, as were many of his disciples. Orphans die, retirement accounts tank, poverty continues. But in Christ, we have the victory -- Take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) The hope we have in Christ does not rest on "something better" coming along. The "something better" has already come in the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who does not give as the world gives, and therefore we need not be afraid (John 14:27). The hope we have in Him is secure, and it is our only assurance that our story will indeed end well.