Sunday, February 12, 2017

Proof of God's Love

I read a story the other day about a miraculous healing of a baby, and the author was rejoicing how this healing was further proof of God's love for us all... I wish I could remember exactly how it was worded, or be able to find it again, but I do remember thinking what a dangerous thought it was. Don't get me wrong, we should all rejoice in the miracle of life and praise God, the Healer, for healing. But if healing one child is proof of God's love, then does it prove His lack of love, lack of trustworthiness when another dies?

I have grown up in and around this mentality. When you love God enough and trust Him in all things, He will work out all things for good. Do you see the problem in what I just said? It's a doozy.

Think about it for a minute. There was a time in my life where I would have wholeheartedly agreed with this statement, though now when I hear it, alarm bells are going off all over the place.



Okay, either you thought about it for a second or you're skipping straight to this to see if I'm ever going to make a point.

"When you love and trust God enough". It's conditional. It implies that those who love and trust well will have it all work out for them. The inverse implication lies beneath. Maybe if your life is not working out as well as it should, it was because you didn't do enough, or you didn't do it right, or you weren't enough.

God is not conditional. His love is not conditional, His answers are not conditional. If everything works out, it doesn't mean you did it all right; and if it doesn't all work out the way you wanted, it doesn't mean you did something wrong. If it fell into boxes like that, it might be easier. Life is messy, and sometimes in the short term it looks like it didn't work out, though maybe in the long term it will look completely different. Or the long term may also look like crap. I don't have answers here for you. All I can tell you is that God loves us unconditionally. In turn, we are asked to love Him unconditionally, even when all of the bad things that should never happen, happen.

The second very dangerous thing about this idea is our fairy tale mentality. We have this insane idea that yes, there will be trials and tribulations, but once we work our way through it, that will be it. It will all finally work out in the end the way that you wanted it to, and of course you will all live happily ever after. You know what's behind that mountain of a trial that you're climbing right now? More mountains. There are always more mountains. Sometimes it all works out. Sometimes it works out just how we wanted, other times it's not at all what we wanted, but we see how good it is in the way that it works out, sometimes it's beyond what we could have possibly imagined. But sometimes none of it "works out".

Does it make sense now why I shuddered to see that sort of an explanation? If this good thing happening is proof of God's love, then what are all the inevitable bad things saying? About us, and about this God, whom we call good.

Perhaps I am so sensitive because I believed that statement. Maybe not worded in exactly that way, but the concept. For a time, it helped me push through hard things, because I could handle it. God would work it out in the end. Then as trials dragged on, unchanging and becoming more permanent, it made me wonder who I was and what was wrong with me or what I was doing, and why I was not worthy, or worth it. Finally, it made me wonder about God, and what His goodness really meant.

I shudder at how many versions of this we believe and propagate, and the people that we hurt with this thought process.

Whatever you are going through, it is true that God will bring healing and redemption out of it. I can't tell you when, and I can't tell you if it will look anything like you would like it to look. I can't tell you if you will see that in this life or the next. I can tell you that this healing and redemption is unconditional, and will be offered to each of us, no matter what we have done right or wrong... But we will have to receive it. If we reject Him and his gifts, it is possible to miss out. However, it is a product of whether we are willing to receive his gifts unconditionally, or not. I know I want to put conditions on it. I want to stipulate what I want the gifts to look like, what I want healing and redemption to mean in my life. My life may never be the way I would orchestrate it, but it is a beautiful life if I only accept it as it is.

Every single mountain you climb will be difficult. Some will merely be uncomfortable, and you'll think you've done something. Then you'll do the ones that take all that you have, then asks for more. Those will hurt you, change you, break you. Keep heading up anyway. I don't know if there will be relief and comfort at the top of the mountain. I don't know if the next mountain will be comparatively easier, or if it might in fact be even harder. Maybe you'll get to a spot that you thought was the end, only to realize that it was a false summit, and there's more. I don't know what is waiting for you on the mountain, but I do know that you will meet God on every single mountain, in every trial. His presence in every part of that trial is the real proof of His love for us. His presence will redeem all of it.

3 comments:

  1. YES. Yes yes yes. I've always been annoyed by that kind of language, or the propensity of people to attribute themselves as "blessed" only when they talk about their spouse or kids or some great thing that happens, as if those of us without those things aren't blessed. Obviously, yes, those things are great blessings, but when the only times we acknowledge blessings are when our lives are going well, it cheapens who God is and the gifts he gives us and love he has for us. Sometimes the phrase "God answered our prayers!" in response to a good thing happening feels the same to me, too - recently on social media there was a beautiful story of God healing a girl who had fallen into a pool, and it is an amazing story, truly, and shows God's power, for sure. But around the same time I came across another similar story, a little boy, lots of people praying for him, too, but he didn't make it. Did God not answer their prayers? Do we only believe prayers are answered if it's a "yes"? I understand that thinking, but it can also be problematic. Maybe both of these thoughts are kind of a different point than you're making but for me it's in the same vein.

    Anyway, I went on a retreat this weekend and one of the things I got out of it was a deep, true, very real sense that God is good even in my pain. That he doesn't give us all the same blessings, the same joys, the same answered prayers, but everything he gives - good, bad, and ugly - is MEANT for us and is meant for our good and for drawing us closer to him, which is the ultimate goal of our lives in the end. Some things are really, really painful and it can be hard to see how God can be in that - but he is, just as much as he's in the beautiful and wonderful moments of our lives. He's right there with me in my suffering, because he's taking on that suffering himself, too. God's goodness isn't solely in the joy. It's in everything. HE is in everything. And he is with us and in us.

    Thank you for writing this! You are amazing.

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  2. Agree 100%! Also happy to be commenting after Susie, my former housemate who needs to come to DC to visit :) #smallcatholicworld

    I was thinking the other day how much I want a "miracle story" to share with the world - for us, that would mean becoming parents, preferably in some really awesome miraculous way with lots of special feast days involved, maybe some novenas, etc. Of course God may choose to do that - but it certainly wouldn't be because of anything we did! Nor is the point to have a great story...(pretty obvious to see how self-focused that is) Our faith is weak and a lot of days the best I can do is "Jesus I trust in You" and mean it at least somewhat...

    I think it is a miracle - just a more hidden one - when people face suffering and just keep on going, stay the course. Maybe there will be a miraculous healing or miraculous answer to prayers, maybe not. But it's pretty darn amazing how many people just get up every day and go to work and treat their family and friends decently even in the midst of serious heartache and unanswered prayers.

    Anyway - thanks for writing, love it!

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  3. Yes! Beautifully said. Such a struggle - to resist the temptation to take credit for the good things that happen (by thinking we've finally prayed the right prayer or trusted enough and that is why God moved when and how he moved) or to take blame (also credit) for the bad things that happen (by thinking we could have/should have done more, said one more prayer, etc).

    This is the very human temptation of asking 'why?' we seek and long for answers, for explanations. In my experience, when I dwell on the 'why' for too long I either go down a very dangerous path of pride or despair. I am constantly reminding myself that "His ways are not my ways" no matter how many rosaries I pray or Novenas I mess up.

    Thank you for this.

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