Life, Death and Love: A Journey Through Spiritual Despair
A manuscript of a book I wrote while going through the darkest years of my spiritual life. It is brutal, honest, dark and yet points to God who is often found and best understood in the experience of abandonment and despair.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Chapter Six: God is God
"Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them".
"...and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins ... If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most to be pitied."
I Corinthians 15:17,19
I will no longer defend the actions of God. I cannot defend what I do not understand. Nor can I defend the integrity of God if it means convincing myself or someone else that the world is essentially good and sweet and God works in some predictable and consistent way to be sure the optimist's glass stays half full. I cannot deny what I have seen.
I'll not bore you with an evening of home movies of the suffering and evils I've witnessed over the years, you have seen it too. Let it suffice to say I've lived long enough for people close to me to die, and they've died too soon, too young, too late and too lonely. I've lived long enough to see unimaginable abuse, to know people's most secret failures, and see people's most dreaded of fears come to pass. I've seen rejection, handicaps, natural disaster and unnatural annihilation. In it all I believed in the integrity and love of God but many times at the expense of my own integrity: I denied much of what was rolling and raging in me because I believed. I truly wanted to believe the problem of evil was all a matter of perspective, the glass is half full. But it was a thin blanket against a bitter cold because smiling at and affirming the fullness does not do away with the emptiness, there is still the place where there is absence. Nor is it the "half full" that is the true issue really, it is the fact of any emptiness at all in the face of a God who seems to promise fullness or at least has the power to deliver it but sometimes does and sometimes does not. I sometimes think it would be easier if he consistently did nothing. There would be a certain comfort to be had in even that hopeless predictability, but I've seen God both show up and stand people up without so much as a clue why.
I now realize that the truth that God said of himself to Moses and Job is the only truth about God I can say with any certainty: "I am the Lord God, I am gracious and but I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." God is saying up front, "I am for all practical purposes capricious and arbitrary. I might bestow mercy but I will do it on my own terms. So be it. End of discussion. No more questions because I'm not giving out answers." Without answers I cannot defend what is ambiguous. I cannot offer uncertainty to anyone as comfort. So all I can be is honest.
These things I have resolved. I will bear witness as plainly as I can, to the good and the evil in the world. I will not deny that at times there is both joy and outrage at God's compassion, joy that someone did find mercy, outrage that not everybody does. I will not deny the sense of betrayal I feel when God does not keep his promises of care, of affirmative answers to prayers said fervently and desperately. I will not deny the sense of abandonment I feel when I see the unchecked evil done in the world, nor the fear knowing it could very well be my child, my friends, my family that might be the next victims. I will no longer presume to tell anyone I know or can even make a wild guess at the divine purposes for either suffering or blessings.
But this I can tell them, this I will affirm: that to believe in God is to have hope there is some divine purpose in it all. I can say that God has never promised he would make sense, only that he is God. If nothing else he has the integrity to tell us up front he's going to do whatever he wants because he is God. I will tell of the most senseless thing he ever did: He showed up here. Not to do away with evil, but to deliver himself over to evil. Instead of showing up to rescue the victims and give the victimizers a sound whacking, he became a victim himself and let them and the plagues and sicknesses and heartaches all go on as if he'd never showed up at all. That is God, take him or leave him.
To take him or leave him is the essence of faith.
He says to us as he is being executed for being God, staring straight in the face of all our incoherence, dissolution and corruption, "Trust me, I know what I'm doing." Either he does or He doesn’t. And either we do or don't buy the resurrection, his promise that there is a vast and holy integrity to it all and we too will someday be redeemed from all this suffering.
For my money, in the end, even if the gospel is all a fairy tale hope at best or a damned lie at worst, it is still more attractive than the hopeless and ghastly promises the world hands me.