Tuesday, February 3, 2009

platitudes



I've been hearing a lot of platitudes lately. People are losing their jobs, struggling with finances, and dealing with the realities of life in a crappy economy. In response to this, their friends, acquaintances, and facebook strangers are offering plenty of "Chicken Soup for the Soul" flavored responses. Not that there's anything wrong with trying to cheer up a friend or offer a bit of hope. But I guess that's where I take issue with the "Chin up, Charlie" crowd: Are you really offering hope? Or just empty promises and false prophecies?

The most common platitude I've been hearing, especially among Christians, is "Everything happens for a reason." This idea gets passed off as being spiritual and Godly, and while I suppose you could squeeze this phrase from some verses in the Bible if you had no regard for context, I don't find this idea to be particularly Biblical. Maybe that's because it is usually accompanied by a further half-truth, "I'm sorry [insert unfavorable event here] happened, but that just means there's something better out there for you."

I have a few issues with this mentality. First of all, although I firmly believe in God's sovereignty over all creation, I don't think that there is some specific, predetermined reason for every bad thing that happens in our lives, apart from the fact that we live in a broken world. I don't believe, like some folks, that the reason Hurricane Katrina happened was so that people would turn from their sinful ways and seek God. And as much as I love The Sound of Music, I am not entirely convinced that "when God closes a door, He always opens a window." I hate to say this, but quite honestly if you just lost your job in this economy there might not be something better coming along.

This post is getting depressing so I should probably just stop here. I'll end by saying that although I don't believe that there is a good reason for every crappy thing that happens, I absolutely believe that nothing, nothing, is beyond God's redemption. Tomorrow I'll write about why God's redemption is not necessarily "something better coming along," or at least not from the perspective of our upper-middle-class privileged American suburban lives.

5 comments:

Deborah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deborah said...

You are absolutely right. I went through some really crappy stuff when I was in university and people would say the same sort of stuff to me and I'd kind of be like, "oh really? what's your basis for that?" because you kinda look at Job and go, "hmm, things didn't get better for him, they just kept getting crappier and crappier, for all I know my whole herd of cows is going to wiped out. If I had a herd of cows."

So yeah, it's important to be realistic and look at the REAL big picture -- not that things are necessarily going to get better (unless you want to look at the eternal picture that we're going to be with Jesus in the end), but that God has a plan and that he will use the bad stuff and use it for good. And heck, sometimes we won't even SEE the good that He works out of it.

But the words we just need to offer is that God is the Man with a Plan and maybe sometimes that plan is really weird and maybe not even fun. But it is always for good because it is from God.

And of course this is easy for me to say because my job is secure and as long as there isn't world peace my husband's job is secure . . . but I think these things even apply to kidney stones, weird as it may sound (Romans 5, baby!).

serenity said...

Yep, I totally agree with you. "All in God's timing" is a bit of a stretch to me too. Rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. It really is unbiblical to think we can know the reason for why good happens to some people and trouble happens for others. It will all work out in the end is really only absolutely true in light of eternity.

Sabrina said...

I also can't stand "When God closes a door, He opens a window." Not true. Sometimes God has you sit there for a while, in the room with a closed door AND window.
Then, the "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff" crowd bothers me also. Tell that to someone who has lost a child or found a tumor.
So, I think the problem is...life can't be explained that easily. But wait...didn't I just try to explain life easily, by saying it can't be explained easily? Hmmm....

Deborah said...

Sabrina -- to be fair, He does eventually open a window. :-)

But I TOTALLY agree with you on the "don't sweat the small stuff, it's all small stuff" thing. I actually get kind of angry when people say that, like you said, say that to a kid with a tumour. It is a bit too simplistic for my liking and it really . . . I think it really (what's the word I'm looking for? I can't think of it) well it just makes them feel really put-down as though what they're going through doesn't matter.