There’s this girl who’s my age. She has a loving husband and a beautiful baby girl. She also has cancer in her liver. It hurts my heart to think about her, about her family, about the toil of the treatments and the ever-present fear, about test results, about what could happen. It’s gut-wrenching. And the best part? It’s EVERYWHERE… everywhere you look, really bad things are happening to really undeserving people.
So I’m gonna take this opportunity to pick a fight with one of the most common statements uttered here in the Bible Belt of the South:
“God never gives us more than we handle.”
I grew up having this statement drilled into my head. Like many things that are present for your entire life, you just hear it without actually THINKING about it. However, when my mother died, this statement suddenly become *extremely* offensive to me. Like literally, someone would say that to me, and I would have an urge to immediately scream obscenities and/or punch the speaker right in their platitude-spewing piehole. I often wonder if the people who throw this statement around so casually have ever been completely broken by something outside their own control. Somehow, I think not.
So why exactly does that statement bring on such a negative reaction?
I think it’s because of the word “give.” “Give” is an active word, one that implies a voluntary, intentional action. You give a gift. You give an award. You give a compliment. The idea that God would GIVE me the death of my mother was further proof of the intimidating, temperamental, hateful God that I had learned long ago to fear (and despise). If that’s his idea of a gift, he can keep that shit to himself, thanks anyway.
I’m trying to rewire myself. I trying to unlearn fear and replace it with grace. I’m trying to come to terms with a world where a loving, all-powerful God and really bad things constantly happening can coexist, because, logically, how can one allow the other? This is a puzzle that I wanted, NEEDED, to understand in order to ever have a positive relationship with God.
After reading a bit and thinking a lot and talking to Dr McK the Preacher-Man, I sort of have a theory. It’s not MY theory — it’s a compilation of many inputs.* It’s not what I was taught as a child, and it’s not what many people believe. But it’s the only thing that makes sense to me.
I don’t believe that God GIVES us cancer. He doesn’t GIVE us heartache and disease and death. He created a perfect world long, long ago — a world that was free of sickness and greed and hurt. He created something that was inherently good.
And then, over thousands of years, the human race has fucked it up. WE — not me, or you, or anyone specifically, but “we” as an entire race — have broken the perfect, unflawed world that was created for us. Our endless, driving need for more… more technology, more money, more power, more convenience, more material comfort, more stimulation, more, more, more… has corrupted the simple good things that once were. The need for constant growth, and money, and medical advances, technology, and creature comforts, are all positive things in that they increase the efficiency, enjoyment, and productivity of our environment. But what’s the collateral damage of progress? You cannot streamline and improve and grow something without altering it. And after generation upon generation of alterations, what we have no longer even vaguely resembles what we originally started with. Our food is full of preservatives and hormones, our air is full of pollutants, our little girls are growing breasts at age 8, our world is full of anger and ambition and burgeoning growth. And when the tiniest factor goes awry, the ripple effects are far-reaching and shattering. The result is war, cancer, brutality, and indoctrinated beliefs that are based only on narrow and selfish human emotion.
Why did my mother die of breast cancer? Why do shitty, unexplainable things happen? Because our world is broken, and a broken world cannot produce perfection. It’s just not possible.
And why doesn’t God — this all-powerful, omniscient, loving God — stop these atrocities from happening? Because he shouldn’t intervene. I do not believe that this theory makes him impotent, as some critics claim. For lack of a better word, he technically COULD intervene, but he’s not “allowed” because it would disrupt what is already in motion because of human decision and free will. Just because you’re physically capable of doing something doesn’t mean that you should always take action. This world has to run it’s course, and has to reach its inevitable conclusion. Although it hurts him to watch us struggle and yearn and fight to survive, he has to allow the cycle to complete itself.
And about the idea of a “cycle”… What if this cycle that we are a part of — Earth, our world, our decisions and actions — is just one of many cycles? What if there was a cycle before us, and there will be a cycle after us? And each time a cycle completes, God resets everything back to perfection and lets the human race try again. The movie “Knowing” was eerily fascinating… it’s Hollywood’s depiction of God pushing the reset button.
So as for God “giving” us more than we can handle? I call bullshit. Past generations are “giving” this crap to us and we’re “giving” it to our future generations and eventually it’s going to implode. It has to… it can’t continue to function indefinitely on its current path.
And this concludes my happy, uplifting contribution for today. Ok then.
Whew. Happy Monday morning, ya’ll.
*Just in case anyone’s interested, this post was my first attempt to delve into this topic. Then this book by Yancey and this book by Kushner are probably the ones I would recommend, although they don’t necessarily agree with each other.