Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It is not okay.

This world of ours is just so broken. The tragedies pile on top of each other like overdue paperwork spilling over a neglected desk, and God seems to be out of the office indefinitely. Maybe it was too much for him too, maybe he couldn't keep up with the never ending redemption. Maybe he is out grabbing a cup of coffee and telling himself he will get back to work in a little while. He just needs a few millennia.

Or maybe God loves us with the fiercest love imaginable but just allows us to wage our own wars. Maybe he sits in his heavenly recliner with a bag of low-fat potato chips and watches it all play out while he thinks warm fuzzy thoughts about us. Maybe he glances at the clock every once in a while, careful not to lose track of time and forget to eventually bring it all to an end. 

Both images are troubling, but what is even more so is the thought that he is intimately involved, that he is listening to our prayers and intervening on our behalves and orchestrating some sort of good plan for our lives. Because if this is so, he is clearly not an equal opportunity benefactor. 

Some people are getting away with minimal tragedy while others seem to never catch a break. And while we humans know how to make the best out of a difficult situation, we'd be hard-pressed to explain away the realities of injustice and abuse and suicide and war and murder and rape as hidden blessings to the people who are experiencing them. Is this getting too dark? Yes, I agree. It's a wonder we're able to tolerate it. 

We like to think there are easy answers to these questions. I regularly get them handed to me in pamphlet form by good-intentioned Jehovah's Witnesses. I too was trained in the fine art of Christian apologetics. I know the rhetoric that is supposed to make this all okay. It is not enough. I am not satisfied. 

Am I supposed to be? Am I supposed to be able to sit quietly in my nearly middle-class life and think to myself, well some people just get hell on earth and some people get hell after it and plenty of people get both, but God is good and he has a plan so I don't really have to let it bother me too much? I'll just keep my eyes in my own corner and hope for the best and sleep soundly at night? 

I'll be the first to admit I have tried very hard to do this, especially in recent years. Like most of us, I have had my own shit to work through and I have had to learn to numb the pain of the world that pierces and throbs through my body in order to get through it. But sometimes things just hit too close to home, and sometimes things just pile up.  

This post will not end with reassurance. Because it is not okay. Even if there is a God, with a plan, who will one day redeem everything (and most days I do choose to believe this), the brokenness of this world is not okay. And while social media campaigns or non-profit donations or volunteer work may improve our world and help us sleep at night, they do not make it okay. Some pain also needs to be felt. Some tragedies also need to be mourned. Sometimes we need to be heartbroken enough by the pain of our fellow human beings that we go ahead and ask some serious questions of God rather than immediately whitewashing the world's tragedies with "right theology."

Because honestly, where is this good God we keep going on about? He has not arrived in time for too many of us, and the tragedy just keeps piling up. 


  1. Alissa, these are exactly the thoughts I have been wracked with recently as well, yet haven't been able to quite put them to words. You've done brilliantly expressing the many facets of the real problem we face, in trying to explain the pain and tragedy in the world. I think we want to find a reason, because then maybe it would mean something, instead of just simply being the wanton way things are. I was struck recently by the idea that we were taught as children... "God has a plan for your life - it's huge, he is able to do immeasureably more than we can hope, ask or imagine - your future is bright!" ...and how this seems to be really a western christian concept: it's the privilege of calling - when, for a huge percentage of Christians, just making it to next week is not even a given. I think "God's Plan" is largely contingent on what is acceptable in your christian culture - so, is it really God's plan? Or something else. Anyway, don't know if I'm making any sense, just my jumbled thoughts.

    1. Yes! The idea of "God's plan" brings up so many more questions for me. A lot more than it answers. Sometimes I feel crazy because it seems so easy for so many people! But you're right, the truth is we view "God's plan" so differently than other people because of our privilege. How can you really accept the idea that God wanted you to get this car, or go on a vacation, or even pay your debt, when for some people, including Christian people, it's not in his "plan" that their children get dinner every night. I just cannot reconcile that, you know? Thanks for making me feel less crazy. <3