When Life is Hard, Stop and Think

Recently I have started following Mark Driscoll on Facebook and Twitter. Although he is good for a daily dose of SCP fodder, I have no interest in zeroing in on him. However, I would like to make an observation and respond to a recent group of posts surrounding one of his sermons.

Driscoll wrote a series of posts in his social media feeds that went like this (edited here for coherence):

When life is hard…

  • God is not punishing you.
  • God is not failing you.
  • God has not abandoned you.
  • God is not acting evil toward you.
  • God will be with you, but he will not answer every question you may have.

In the transcript of this sermon, Driscoll has this to say about trials:

When those seasons come, our emotions tend to be very elevated and escalated. We feel sometimes more clearly than we think.

In the midst of tough times, Driscoll is asking us to think and not feel. I’d say this is good advice. Because if we really think about the five statements above in conjunction with the final three points of the sermon, we have to make tons of logical leaps to accept the fact of what Driscoll calls “a good God”.

Here’s what Driscoll says God says about trials.

  • You are going to get trials.
  • Trials are a test and an opportunity.
  • You will get trials of various kinds.

Think about it. A good loving God allows trials in your life, for a test and an opportunity and he allows all kinds of trials from small to large.

Recall the worst thing that ever happened to you in your life and God allowed that to happen. Why? To test you and give you an opportunity for you “to prove who you are in Christ”. Why? If I am in Christ, and that’s true, what do I have to prove? That I am really in Christ? According to Driscoll God is consistently and constantly sending you all types of trials. It’s all good though because God isn’t doing you any harm, and he’s there for you and he will get you through.

I want you to take Driscoll’s advice and stop feeling for a second. Stop feeling how good it is believing that God is out there and that he loves and cares for you. It makes you feel so warm and fuzzy inside knowing that no matter what happens, large or small, God is there to help you through it. This feeling has gotten you through some pretty hard stuff in life – the loss of a parent, the loss of a child, the loss of a marriage. Feeling God’s love and not thinking about God’s love has been pretty valuable.

But stop feeling and think about it. Does it make rational sense that good God would allow trials in your life? Is it right that someone who says they love you can permit difficulties in your life and not have to be accountable for their complicity? It’s a win-win for God all the time. He never has to answer your questions, he gets no blame and gets all the credit no matter what happens in your life. Does that makes sense to you?

If God’s ways are higher than our ways I would argue God has a few things to learn from us. As a parent, I would never treat my children the way he treats his children. Only people trapped in dysfunctional and co-dependent relationships allow such abuse to go on. The reasons they do so is because they love the abuser so much and can’t imagine life without them. Think about it.

King on the Church

1501556_10151953625232998_1730627087_o-217x300Though King’s legacy is often inextricably linked to his faith in God, he was hardly a cheerleader for the church…King believed the church had failed to fight for peace and social and economic justice. He also chided churches across the United States for having done little to fight segregation and racism. “It is to their everlasting shame,” he said, “that white Christians developed a system of racial segregation within the church and inflicted so many indignities upon its Negro worshippers that they had to organize their own churches.”

King also blamed organized religion for its willing support of violent resolutions:“In a world gone mad with arms buildups, chauvinistic passions, and imperialistic exploitation, the church has either endorsed these activities or remained appallingly silent. During the last two world wars, national churches even functioned as the ready lackeys of the state, sprinkling holy water upon the battleships and joining the mighty armies in singing, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” A weary world, pleading desperately for peace, has often found the church morally sanctioning war.”

Did you hear the one about the pastor who tried atheism?

Ryan Bell, a former Seventh Day Adventist pastor, has decided to try atheism for a year.  His transition from faithful pastor to church critic to exploring non-belief have a familiar ring to them. It’s easy to identify with Bell’s description of life after leaving full-time ministry:

Since that time I have been a religious nomad. I have struggled to relate to the church and, if I’m honest, God. I haven’t attended church consistently; I struggle to relate to church people, preferring the company of skeptics and non-church-goers. I haven’t prayed much and, without sermons to write on a regular basis, I haven’t studied, or even really read, the Bible.

What Bell seems to be suffering is not only a faith crisis, but a career crisis. For professional pastors the two are one in the same. Having been there I can tell you, it can be quite scary.

So Bell is going to “try on” atheism for a year and write about it. I sense what he is trying to do, but I’m not sure of his methods. It’s his journey however I can’t quite gauge his sincerity. The whole thing seems very public after all (with a book deal no less).

During my transition from belief to non-belief, I was writing regularly online and touching on the subject but it was also deeply, deeply personal. It wasn’t something I was trying, it was something I was experiencing. It was also something I was becoming.

I’m not sure one can “try on” atheism any more than one can “try on” Christianity. Telling an atheist to “just believe” is like telling a pig to fly. I know that in my past as a Christian I could not have fathomed “not believing”. It’s just not something you try.

As I’ve said before, you can’t fake a belief that doesn’t exist. You can’t fake non-belief either.