Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Yep. People suffer.

I'm really sick of this super fluffy cuddly idea of God we've got going.
I'm tired of sitting in Quakerism class and people going "but God is nice...how can he let people suffer?"

UM HELLO. Have you ever read anything in the Bible? The God of the Hebrew Bible at least is not super cuddly. In fact, he's not exactly slow to anger. He and Israel have a bit of a love-hate thing going on (Admittedly, he's very just in this case). Israel f's up; God punishes them.

Even Moses didn't get to the Promised Land, though he did get to see it. In the NT, Jesus suffers. Other characters who suffer: Miriam suffers. Esther suffers. Ruth suffers. Paul suffers. The Egyptians suffer. Orpah suffers. Heck, Job, the one character who manages to hold God accountable, suffers and he's supposedly an incredible person. Throughout the Bible, the main figures suffer again and again and again, often, at the hands of God or via things God supposedly controls, be they good or bad.

The thing is, suffering's a part of life. To characterize God as some namby pamby being who just loves us all so much and that's all he does...is missing half the picture. And honestly, I don't want to serve that God. I'd vastly prefer a God with a backbone, a God who has ideals, a God who is an active God, or what we call in my English class "a historical God" (e.g. a God who influences history and has played a key role in major events). I want a God who wants me to be a better person because he cares about me, not a God who cares about me so much that he'll let me settle for less than my best and that he'll just keep me from living a normal human life, which includes suffering.

Sometimes I get so angry at God, especially when I see how much people around me are suffering or when I realize how much someone has suffered. You know how it is...that look of utter desperation in somebody's eyes or the slight shift in pitch of their voice as their memory snags on some particularly painful recollection. It hurts so much to see that, especially when you know the person suffering is what you would consider a "good person." It is absolutely heart-wrenching, or at times, even heart-breaking.

Sometimes I even look back at things I've been through, which are extraordinarily minor on the grand scale of suffering, and I get angry. And then the questions come - "how could He let this happen if He cares about me?" God loves us enough to let us learn, to make our own choices, to choose again and again if we want to turn to doubt or to faith in the light of our circumstances. He gave us free will, all of us, and in dealing with the consequences and joys of that, we find our greatest strengths, and some of us are lucky enough to find our faith strengthened in turn. We can grow from our suffering, or we can crumble and give in to it. And either way, He's there. In the pain and in the final relief from the pain, and in every resurgence of every bad memory, he's there.

God doesn't owe me happiness. God doesn't owe me anything. Hell, he made me; I owe him. And I'm damn sure not going to expect things from Him or presume that He ought to behave in a certain way. And if my heart's going to get broken through my own pain or through knowing of others' incredible suffering, I'm just going to hope that it's somehow for some greater good, just as every Bible character's suffering ultimately led to the culmination of biblical history in the death and resurrection of Jesus (I'm not comparing myself to Jesus. I just hope that in some small scale way that my earthly role helps somebody somehow, or at least fulfills God's intentions).

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