Some people use Facebook to keep in touch with their relatives and post baby pictures. My timeline is almost exclusively silly memes, cat pictures, and questions like these:
So I guess that makes me that Facebook friend…whatever that means. I can get away with this only because the people I knew would respond are people who can carry on a religious-themed discussion without fireworks. Inevitably, there was disagreement, but none that made me have to step in as a mediator.
I’ve used variations of these responses myself. But if someone asked me a few years ago, “What does that even mean?” as some of my friends did, I’d have found myself tongue-tied. The word “forsake” means to not forget, sacrifice, or give up on. In that sense, no matter what mess I might find myself in, God is always with me.
Except that doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to me. After the tragic events of this week – two black men killed by police, and several officers killed at what should have been a peaceful protest in Dallas – I’m revisiting this question once more: what do we mean by “God will not forsake us”? Were the officers at the protest told this by their friends and family members who prayed for their safety while on duty? How many black families repeat this every time their children leave home, knowing how dangerous and unpredictable society can be?
Though they all meant well, I can’t say any of the above answers persuaded me one way or the other. There’s still a great deal of “Christian speak” I struggle to understand beyond just an abstract picture. Day by day, moment by moment, I’m not sure how to tell if I’ve been abandoned or if I’m being protected; if God is indeed with me or has withdrawn himself from me.
I suppose those answers vary person by person.
Truthfully, there have been moments in my life when I felt “a presence,” though I can’t elaborate much more on what I mean by that, because 1) those moments were quite some time ago, and 2) this sort of conviction is a personal one. But if we use “God will not forsake us” to convey that God will always protect us physically, we might need to reevaluate. Plenty of innocent people succumb to tragedy with faith perfectly intact.
How would I know if God is with me? I don’t. I can’t.
The world beyond my apartment is chaotic, but the more I learn to accept that faith is not a security blanket designed to bounce bullets off of me (and ricochet toward someone else?) the more easily I can accept that the world operates by both natural law and free will. I’d have surely lost my faith by now if it were built on a trust that tragedy can’t touch me.
Violence like what happened this week is bad enough – I find it more worthwhile to fight against the racism embedded in American society than anxiously ponder why God apparently forsook the innocent people whose lives were ended so cruelly.
Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.