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.

7 comments:

serenity said...

Yes, this finishes your thought really well. I knew you weren't just being grumpy - but as you say, just wanting people to examine what they mean and what might be more helpful to someone who is hurting.

Brian Moss said...

HB-

Very good post(s). I found it quite something to read your words in light of my sister in law's words at http://jonlizmoss.blogspot.com/2009/02/love-meets-tremendous-need.html which was really a response to http://jonlizmoss.blogspot.com/2009/02/love-meets-tremendous-need.html. As you said, there IS good news to tell, and I'm praying that there is a hopeful future for one of the orphans from Ethopia referenced here...my future nephew, David. That's a long way of saying - God is good all the time. Peace.

Brian Moss said...

Sorry...HERE is the link Liz was referring to...http://holtintl.org/blog/?p=383.

Colleen Anita Hamilton said...

Haley- I'm not exactly sure why God appears to be the God of the rich, white upper-middle class? And how it appears that they are the only people who good things are coming to? Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are saying, but it seems that you believe that because of the tragedy that is present in the places mention, third world countries, coke babies and such, that God is not present there or bringing anything better to them? Or that it is wrong to encourage, or maybe not wrong, but feeble, stupid, and weak of people to encourage others in the sovereign plan that God has for each of our lives by saying "something better is/will come along". I understand the frustration and ignorance some people may have when making such statements, that maybe their attempts came from an ill-informed place, but how is it that in some place there is doubt of the goodness of God in EVERY single thing that goes on in the world, tragic or not? This topic is obviously loaded, and yes we do have a promise in the goodness that has already come through Jesus Christ, but where does that leave us in the now, if we doubt the goodness of God in everything? I'm not sure if this is making sense to you, and maybe I will try to re-explain what I mean later. I am just confused as to where you are standing on this issue.

Haley Ballast said...

Colleen,

I think there is some misunderstanding here... I'm not sure that I'll be able to remedy that in this format, but maybe the following statements will help:

1. I do believe in God's ultimate sovereignty - He is Lord in all and over all.

2. I do believe that God HIMSELF is good all the time.

3. I do NOT believe that 'the goodness of God' is present in every event of the world. I believe in God's REDEMPTIVE power over every event of the world, but I also believe that Satan has been given power in this world for a time, and that he is doing all he can to bring chaos, pain, and destruction. There is no goodness of God in the work of the devil. God can redeem it, but it was not His doing.

4. When people say "something better will come along" they are not usually (in my experience) affirming God's sovereignty. They are saying, "Hey you still have a lot going for you (i.e. health, family, education, material possessions, etc), you'll be OK." That is not an attitude or sentiment that I can find in the Bible. I'm not saying that one can never use the phrase in an encouraging and Biblical way, just that I don't regularly see it being used that way.

5. Not sure if you clicked the links from my friend Brian, but I completely affirm that God IS bringing hope and new life to orphans and coke babies every day. My issue is - what about the ones who aren't so lucky? What does our God have to say to them? EVERYTHING, because He is not the God of food, water, and shelter (though He faithfully provides those to many) -- He is the God of eternal glory and salvation, which are freely offered to ALL who would believe on Him.

6. I love you. :)

Colleen Anita Hamilton said...

I guess my confusion or interest is within the statement about the rich, middle class, educated, and how they are truthfully the only ones who really know that good things are coming to them. I guess I feel like that is denying the fact of what God does in the lives of those who are not in that situation, as well as the difficulties we are too blind to see in our own lives based purely on the fact that we are the rich, healthy, and educated. That we may never learn the things that he is teaching people in completely different situations than our own, and the tragedy within our own circumstance/ culture because we are so blinded by what we think are blessings that other people wish they had. I dont know. Ive been dealing with this topic for a long time and of course wonder about God and what is going on when babies have no chance with coke addict mothers and people whos lives don't get better and all that. I am just not sure what/why it has to do with financial status and the like.

Haley Ballast said...

You are still misunderstanding me, my dear. Some of my statements in the post are not reflective of MY beliefs, but rather the attitudes I see in society.

I am not at all saying that rich people are more blessed by God or that God is doing more in the lives of rich people than elsewhere in the world. Not a bit. On the contrary, I am saying that those of us rich folk often make the mistake of thinking that God is SIMPLY the provider of material things. That His goodness is LIMITED to getting us another job or helping us find a good investment. Many people in the world never experience material blessings, but they have every bit as much access to the abundant blessing of God, because God is NOT (NOT NOT NOT) just the God of the rich and materially blessed. He offers more than a hot meal or a cold drink - He offers peace through His son and the eternal restoration and redemption of our souls AND bodies.

I hope that helps clarify what I'm getting at... if not, give me a ring - we need to catch up anyway! :)