Sunday, December 13, 2015

Anger and Doubt

All of you know that I am a man who has great faith in God, at least I hope you think that.  These last two weeks have been so difficult. Why did God take my friend? Why would he let something so tragic happen to someone with such a beautiful soul? Some terrible things had happened in my friend's life when he was younger.  His parents disowned him for being gay, which had nothing to do with religion but pure homophobia. God brought wonderful people into his life and helped him through those difficulties. My friend had a difficult time understanding how such a great and loving God could allow tragedies to happen. Whether those tragedies were accidents or caused by someone hatred or cause by natural disasters, he wondered how God could let those things happen.  I never had a very good answer for him.  He had suffered in his life because of his family's rejection, and I've never been able to understand how they could be so cruel.

These past two weeks, I've struggled with the same issues. I can't help but wonder how God could allow him to die in an accident, while his hateful parents continued to live on. I admit that it has made me so angry at God. Being angry at God just compounded my sadness because I felt guilty for being angry at God and questioning the faith I have in Him to protect and provide for us. God took this beautiful man (and I don't mean in just physical beauty, which he was, but also in his soul.) He was beautiful and so kind.  God took him away from not only me, but the rest of the people who'd considered him part of their family: his boyfriend and other friends. For me, he was more than a friend. He was family. He was my confidante, and he was my confessor. He was the younger brother I never had. There are so many wicked and hateful people in this world that God could have taken, but he took someone who had the purest heart I have ever known.

One friend told me that I had to think of this as purely an accident, because horrible tragedies like this are not the hand of God. While I wish I could think that way, I was always told that God guides all things. God performs miracles every day, why couldn't He have saved my friend? I've always believed that everything happens for a reason. If so, what could possibly be the reason behind this? Being angry or disappointed with God is a troubling subject for me. If God is such a loving God, how can He allow such pain? It reminds me of a scene from Steel Magnolias.  I produced the play a couple of years ago as part of the drama club I was in charge of.  It's the most difficult scene in the whole play and one that I never did get through without tears in my eyes:

M'Lynn: [crying] I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine.
M'Lynn: I'm fine! I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can't! She never could! Oh God! I am so mad I don't know what to do! I wanna know why! I wanna know *why* Shelby's life is over! I wanna know how that baby will *ever* know how wonderful his mother was! Will he *ever* know what she went through for him! Oh *God* I wanna know *why*? *Why*? Lord, I wish I could understand!
[in a firm tone]
M'Lynn: No! No! No! It's not supposed to happen this way! I'm supposed to go first. I've always been ready to go first! I-I don't think I can take this! I-I don't think I can take this! I-I just wanna *hit* somebody 'til they feel as bad as I do! I just wanna hit something! I wanna hit it hard!

The scene of course is followed immediately by a humorous scene that breaks the tension. While I've always found this an emotional scene, it's a very close description to how I feel.

I've read that being angry with God is something that both believers and unbelievers wrestle with.  When some extreme difficulty or tragedy happens in our lives, we naturally ask God the question — “Why?”  I've asked that question a lot in the last two weeks. I was researching ways to deal with my doubts and anger and came across the following passage written by Dr. D. W. Ekstrand:

This response indicates two flaws in our thinking — first, even as believers, we all have the tendency to operate under the impression that life should be easy and pleasant (especially if GOD is our God), and that God should prevent tragedy, difficulty and pain from happening to us (Jn 11:37); so when He does not, we get angry or disappointed with Him (Jn 11:32).  Second, when we do not seem to be able to reconcile the extent of God’s sovereignty, we lose confidence in  His ability to control all of the circumstances we go through in life.  When we lose faith in God’s sovereignty, it is actually because our frail human flesh is grappling with our own frustration  and our own lack of control over events.  All of us tend to live life in such a way that we can positively affect the outcome of situations… that everything will work out as we have planned;  as such, we believe that we are the ones who ultimately determine our fate — when good things happen, we generally attribute it to our own efforts; so when things go bad we are quick to blame God, and get angry with Him for not preventing it.  Deep down we believe we should be immune to unpleasant circumstances (flaw number one as noted above), especially if God loves us.

While I think this is a good answer to what I've been dealing with tragedy, he's flawed when he says "when good things happen, we generally attribute it to our own efforts." I don't.  I attribute it to God's guiding hand.  So if we give God the credit for what good happens in our life, why shouldn't He also take blame for the tragedies. Why does God continue to have us go through pain and loss? When will good Christians and faithful believers be rewarded? Is it only in death? If feel like in the past seven or eight years I have been constantly beat down. Finally something good had happened in my life and career, and I was thankful for God's guiding hand. Then suddenly, all of that joy and happiness was ripped away by the loss of my friend. While I am still thankful for my job, I have to wonder: is this God's way of reminding me that I will never be fully happy? It seems like in my life for every ten failures, I have one success. Is it my destiny to be knocked down each time God helps me up?

Dr. Ekstrand went on to say: 

Tragedies and suffering bring home the sobering truth that we are not in charge… that God is  the One who ultimately determines what happens in our lives… that everything is either caused      or allowed by God.  Remember, He is God.  We can complain, get angry, and blame God for what is happening, yet if we will trust Him and yield our bitterness and pain to Him, acknowledging the prideful sin of trying to force our own will over His, He can and will grant us His peace and strength to get us through any difficult situation (1 Cor 10:13). We can be angry with God for many reasons, so we all have to accept at some point that there are things we cannot control or even understand with our finite minds. 

This has not been the most upbeat of my post on religion. Maybe it doesn't even belong here, but this is where I think through my relationship with God and try to understand it.  Right now, I'm having trouble understanding it and maybe some of you have better answer than I do.  Quite frankly, I have no answers right now.


silvereagle said...

Second Samuel, Chapter 18

And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Professor. You are going through grief as you have never experienced. David, another chosen of God - just as you are - also went through that same valley as shown in the verse above...he continued his struggle and finally emerged victorious as you will. Remember David...he was of no less importance than you.

You will survive and be strong.

mess said...

dear joe....
i don't believe in "god".....i did at one time but's been a while.....i find your faith and hope endearing....while i stand on the periphery .....
trying to find reasons why "god" has allowed or not allowed something to happen is quite foreign to me....
i am guided more by "a mistake made by idiots on the road".....of which many of us are quite familiar....
i no longer question why "god" had a hand in whatever.....and i realize this mindset is antithetical to most of of your readers....but...there are many on this planet....and we are fighting for space.....or...."shit" does happen....and it will invariably happen to us at one time or another.....
.... view does not keep me from empathizing or sympathizing with your pain.....

Michael Dodd said...

A wise man once told me, "Drop the question. There's the answer."

No cheap grace, no easy answers, no greeting card cliches. Especially none that "protect" God.

Those who love you are holding you in their hearts. And it is okay with us if you ache and kick and scream. We will still hold you there.

If you want to include God among that heart-holding company, so be it. Do you think perhaps the heart of God aches infinitely more than ours in the face of human tragedy?

Anonymous said...

How great a tragedy that you have suffered. I trust that you will find peace with time, and that your bond with Christ and with God will not be broken.

I joined the Moravian Church recently. Today's Old Testament reading was Zephaniah, Chapter 3, 14-20. It is a song of joy. As I read it today, I wondered how comforting it may be to folks facing personal disaster. I wondered if Dietrich Bonhoeffer may have read it before he was vengefully hanged by the Nazis just prior to their defeat? Or, perhaps, someone about to be executed for a crime of which they are innocent.

Be strong, and keep the Faith.


Susan said...

Darling Joe, I do not think there is an understanding or an answer for this tragedy. There is only time.

Amanda said...

It's hard on us when tragedy strikes. I've been through phases in my life when I was closer to God and then sometimes not. This year hasn't been a particularly good one for me. One thing I've realized is that no one has the answers here...only God.

Good people are taken for reasons we don't know while people who are hateful and vile continue to walk the Earth. But, I believe we are here to grow and learn. If everything was always good how can we grow? And, if bad things only happened to bad people would anyone care?

Sending you love, comfort, and peace during this difficult time. ((Hugs))

Anonymous said...

Your dear friend was called home to be with the Lord. Who says that is a tragedy? Not your friend who likely is in the glory of his Father for eternity. We, the mortal that remain behind are the one's that feel the pain, the tragedy of such events. It is the faithful living that suffer as the Lord said we would suffer. With our strong faith and with time, we see that our departed friends are forever blessed and safe from ALL hate, and ALL injury. They will never suffer ever again. They are forever blessed and await the day we are called home to welcome us to join the forever faithful. Be sad my friend. Shed your tears. Now smile and rejoice that your friend was so special, or in such need, that Our Lord called him home to be with Him forever.


Anonymous said...

When I was about 8 or 9 years old I realized I was sexually attracted to masculine males - especially those with a bit of chest hair. But the message from the society of the time(1970s) told me this meant I was a fag and a sexual deviant and if ANYONE found out my life would be over. I'd be disowned and alone and homeless. I was TERRIFIED of being found out!

To make things so much worse, I was already dealing with a major social anxiety avoidance disorder by the time i was 5 years old! So with those two issues there is no way I could have showered after gym class with other boys. I was terrified and embarrassed of being seen naked and of being around other naked boys. There's no way I could have done it! Even if threatened. We just assume boys are ok with it. I stayed in the closet for 45 years (so far) because of the SAA Disorder which ruined my life.