For all my moaning and groaning about how I just don’t “get” evangelical culture, I seem to have lost sight of Jesus. It’s an easy thing to do, when many who represent him attribute quotes to him and his dad that neither of them actually said, and that gets rather frustrating.
“Everything happens for a reason” is found nowhere in the Bible, but for how many Christians say it, you’d assume it was the eleventh commandment to believe it. This is a hard one for me, because it’s comforted me many times during unexplainable hardships. It’s especially hard when I realize that if I hadn’t joined my college ministry, an organization that caused me more spiritual harm than good, I never would have met my husband. In fact, if I hadn’t joined a dance class in middle school, where I met my future maid of honor, who later recommended I get “plugged in” to a ministry to help me grow, I never would have met my husband. Was I meant to join a very specific dance class to be lead to Cru to find a husband? Who knows.
“Love the sinner, hate the sin.” The sentiment is a nice one: love people without always agreeing or supporting what they do. It sounds wonderful in theory but often fails in practice when hating the sin feels an awful lot like hating the sinner. Truthfully, I have no time or energy to hate other people’s sins. There’s no one’s sin that I despise more than my own.
“God protected my house from a tornado/Jesus healed my tumor.” Aside from being offensive to those whose homes weren’t protected during a storm, and to those whose loved ones did die of tumors, statements like these are particularly senseless coming from the mouths of people who follow a religion in which God allowed his own son to die a horrible, agonizing death. Think about it for a moment: if God allowed Jesus to suffer, why should any of us be exempt?
That’s not to say God can’t or won’t protect a house in a storm or zap an illness away, but I find it’s easier to believe those things when it happens to you personally. Those of us who spent significant amounts of time in the chemo ward without success are more inclined to accept that the doctors did the best they could (really, thank God for doctors!), but sometimes, shit happens anyway. It’s a cold comfort – not really a comfort at all – to accept that sometimes tragedy has no apparent reason; you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, you inherited crappy genes, you ignored the phone ringing that would have made you five minutes late, preventing you from ending up in that fourteen-car pile-up on 1-25.
I believe Jesus when he says that there is meaning and redemption that can come out of suffering. That, to me, is his biggest selling point: shit happens, but it can be used for great fertilizer if harvested the right way. I find comfort in being part of a faith that emphasizes meaning and closeness to God in suffering rather than seeking to excuse or avoid it. In such a fallen world as this, avoiding suffering is impossible. The promise of Jesus to redeem it is a far more comforting and realistic hope to rest on.