Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Dance

God's plan, eh?  So you're telling me God has a plan.  Is it part of His plan that a six year old dies?  Because that seems like a great way to comfort that child's mother.  Tell her it's all part of His plan.

Is it part of His plan when tornadoes tear apart towns and families?

Is it His plan for earthquakes and tsunamis to kill thousands?

Is it His plan for some nations to die of starvation, while others die of obesity?

What part of His plan calls for some couples to struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss, while other women, despite drug use and all around poor choices, seem to have no problem getting pregnant?

Why does His plan allow some people to have absolutely no one to go see on the holidays?

I know all the pat answers.  I know "He'll bring good out of suffering." I know "He doesn't make bad things happen, He allows them to happen."  I know those.  I've used those. They just seem so inadequate.  It doesn't make sense to me to have God plan suffering in order to redeem suffering.  (And whether He makes it happen or just allows it to happen, if it's part of His plan, then it still doesn't make sense.)

Maybe I have too strict a view of God's plan?  Maybe He doesn't really plan all these things, maybe His plan is more of a general overview kind of thing.  The plan is to get us to heaven, but maybe He didn't plan every little moment along the way.

Only, do you know what is far more scary than the idea of God planning everything (even suffering)?  Look into the eyes of a mother who has lost a child, and tell her that there's no plan after all.  That her pain was not part of a plan that will work out for good in the end. That even though God is around and He cares and He'll get you to heaven, He's standing on the sidelines as this happens.  That's not what I want either.  I want Him to be in control of this, even when it makes me angry at Him for not doing a better job.

Do you see why I question?  How does it make sense for an all powerful, loving God to plan suffering, and also how does it make sense that He wouldn't have a plan?

As with so many things, the problem really lies in my thinking. It is not a problem of how God is handling things.  It is a problem of how I am understanding them.  A few years ago, I blithely assumed that everything was a part of God's plan.  All of the timing about how everything worked out, all of it.  The problem with taking such a thought too far is that then I was treating God as a sort of divine puppet master.  Not that I ever thought of it like that, of course, but if He is in control of every little detail, then that's what He would be.  If suffering happened, it would be the puppet master making it/allowing to happen.

However, another mother, who lost an 8 month old, put things more into perspective. She wrote that she had to decide whether God had taken her child, or whether He had received her child.  Such a difference.  Those two words suddenly made me see that in my "puppet master" view, it would mean that God had taken the child; a real problem.

What if, instead, I take a step WAAYYY back.  All the way back to Genesis, in fact.  What if I take a look at sin and death and problems entering the world.  And what if God, who is NOT a puppet master, but a loving Father, who knew that we needed free will in order to be truly free to love, gave us free will, even knowing what pain and suffering we would bring down on ourselves.  After all, the goal here on earth is not whether or not we suffer.  It's whether or not we love.

So if sin, death, and everything else is because of the problems of an imperfect world, then it's not because of God that it happens.  Nonetheless, God has a plan.  Just as He started to reveal His plan of salvation the moment that Adam fell, He has a plan for each of the things that happens to us in life.

He did not make miscarriage happen.  But He does have a plan for it; a plan to receive that child into His waiting arms, and a plan for healing for the parents of that child.  He has a plan that will redeem that suffering and give it a meaning and a purpose.  That may be down the road, and even though He knows the beauty of the ultimate plan, He is still weeping with those who weep.

He is not a puppet master.  Perhaps it is more like a dance. He is leading us each step of the way, guiding our steps, but not forcing us. In dance, there is a call and response between partners and so in life.

Maybe God's plan is much messier than I gave it credit for.  Not because He is messy, but because we are messy and life is messy and rather than pulling every string, He makes us a partner in the dance.  He could bring salvation without suffering, but because there is suffering, He brings it out of that (and out of the good things as well).


Okay, that's a really long post, and I can only hope it makes sense. Kudos* if you made it all the way through!  The thing about subjects like this is that there will never be complete answers this side of heaven.  I know that there are a lot of things that I am missing or places where I may be a little off, so please add any insights you may have!

*I know what the expression means, but what, exactly, are "kudos"?


  1. Kudos are granola bars, no? Kidding! Actually, do they still make them?? I have no idea where the term came from.

    But I know exactly what you're getting at with this post. I've been struggling with this a lot lately, since my husband was laid off in May. Monday marked 4 months of unemployment, with no bites after lots of applications. This is the 2nd time he's been laid off, too--first was soon after we were married. We'll be married 4 years at the end of the month and he's been laid off for almost half of that time. (He had other, serious, suffering even before we were married.) Why us? What's the plan?

    My grandfather had a saying, "turn your trash into cash," which means taking something that didn't work out the way you thought, and make something better out of it. Or improve it. A baker friend of the family took this literally--she started selling the hard ends of her brownies as cookies, instead of throwing them out! I thought of that saying immediately as I was reading the paragraph re: miscarriage. Obviously, there's not a direct connection between that saying and a miscarriage, but bear with me a sec :)

    Maybe that's what God is doing with the bad things that happen. He's not causing them to occur, but he can make beauty/good/etc of something bad? It's hard to see the good coming out of bad, be it a flat tire, broken bone, job loss or miscarriage. I would never cheapen anyone's suffering--I might sound heartless with what I'm writing, but I don't mean it!

    What's hardest is that often we don't know/can't see the good immediately. We have to wait. Maybe we'll never see it in this life? It's hard to know that my hubs' lay offs are for a reason, especially when something like one's job can hold up other areas of life moving on.

    I don't have any real solutions to this, just wanted you to know you aren't alone :)

  2. It's hard, it really, really is. HUGS!

  3. I really appreciate your perspective, and reading this brought me peace! :)

  4. Okay, I have been thinking about this post for a couple of days ever since I read it. It is beautiful, simply beautiful and more eloquent than I could ever be! Thank you for writing it and sharing your reflections with us.