Saturday, January 16, 2010

Trusting God... Or Not

Let us go back to a thought that I had voiced in a previous post ( whereby I had expressed the irrationality of the idea that the mowing down of young schoolchildren by a mad gunmen was somehow God’s will. There are people, seemingly religious people, those who have intentionally given themselves to God, devoted their lives to the work of God and because of the simplicity of their lives, because they have renounced their ties to the material world, because they choose horse and buggy over cars we here in the ‘secular’ world believe that somehow they might actually be more ‘godly’ than the rest of us heathens who elect to use cell phones and like to drive fancy cars.

I would like to expand on my earlier thoughts about God’s will or rather that which we might be tempted to ascribe to God’s will as it pertains to trust or perhaps more accurately the inability to trust. The events that we choose to blame on God’s will, the death of a child at the hands of a gunmen, the devastation wreaked by an earthquake (thank you Pat Robertson), cancer, aids, airplanes flying into buildings, all of these tragic events of history are ascribed by so many of our religious ‘leaders’ as God’s will and to be sure sometimes God’s will comes in the form of God’s wrath.

But here’s the thing. These same people who assign responsibility of tragic events to the will of God are those same people who insist, quite possibly in their next breath, that only God can be trusted. In order to be saved (whatever that means) we must place our trust in Jesus, give our lives, our souls over to the care of God and he alone will take care of us.

So I would like to ask how is it possible, when God’s will is served for example by their five-year-old son dying of cancer, for two parents to be able to trust God with their own lives and the lives of the rest of their children? The assignation by the parent of so incomprehensible an event as the death of their child to God’s will is a coping mechanism. “God must have wanted him” we tell ourselves. He is now safe in the arms of God. And nobody would doubt that this is a comforting thought, the ONLY comforting thought they might be able to grab on to and to be sure it may very well be true (one can only hope). Problem is that I, as the parent, am left utterly devastated. And chances are probably pretty darn good that I’m pulling the rest of my children just a little bit closer to me and just a little bit further away from that God guy who seems to apply his will rather imperiously.

I am thinking about trust in the therapeutic relationship this morning. It is, I must admit a bit of a stumbling block for me. We as clients are supposed to lay our inner world open to this person, our thoughts, our emotions, our joys and (mostly) our pain. Two problems with this. First of all the laying open of ourselves, even a little seems to have the undesirable effect of somehow drawing us closer emotionally to this person of the therapist which is an instantaneous signal for the warning sirens to go off and the deflector shields to go up because... Secondly so many of us who end up on a therapist’s couch have had mostly nothing but disappointment and (for some) the most gross violation (annihilation?) of trust by the people who were supposed to love and protect us as children.

And so I ask how is it possible for me to trust my therapist not to up and bail on me in the middle of my hour of need when I cannot even trust God as witnessed by the seeming arbitrariness of the application of His will?

I have a theory (but you already knew that didn’t you) and my theory goes something like this: It is not God’s will that a five-year-old boy dies of cancer. In fact I think it might just be possible that God was nowhere in the vicinity when that young boy died.


  1. I'm working on the third step of AA right now so I've been reading and thinking about the role of God's will in my life. I have to believe that God's will is always good and I just don't see Him willing any kind of suffering on us.

    I think that it is God's will that we transform that pain and suffering into something that will make sense and benefit us -to transform the energy, but He doesn't make "bad" things to happen to teach us lessons. (Mind you, He probably lets them happen!)

    My perspective might be a little different because I do believe in reincarnation and karma. I think that terrible (and good) things can happen to us because of things we did to deserve them -in this life or past lives. However, I also believe that there is a "shortcut" that will allow my karmic debt to be paid and that is nothing short of a transformation of spirit; an aligning of my will with the will of God. Not easy. I believe Jesus accomplished it. I also believe in the power of His grace.

    Okay, I could go on but it's just my thoughts/path/beliefs (today). I don't expect anyone else to get it. I'm still trying to work out the kinks myself. Suffice to say that God doesn't will bad things but He (usually) doesn't stop them either.

  2. jss,
    As always, I am rendered almost completely speechless by your ability to artculate the very concepts that I find mysel wrestling with almost wordlessly, so so beautifully an powerfully.
    My first instinct (so as you know)is just to say YES.
    and YES.
    I'm so glad, relieved I suppose, to hear someone else voice their cynicism about God's will.
    I cannot, and will not, reconcile a God of love an faithfulness with a God who intends events which will break us to a point where we live in hell on earth.
    I cannot trust a God who does this.
    Allows it, I can just about see... but is IN CHARGE of it?
    In fact, the ideasyu voice are the very ideas which have made me struggle and lose hope with/in a faith I never, ever believed I would lose or doubt.

    And jss, yes... therapists, trust, ouch.

    I know how you feel and understand how immensely hard it is.
    I'm just WAITING for mine to hurt me / let me down / screw me over.

    Thank you jss, for (again) putting it all so beautifully.

    I agree with you that God was nowhere in the vicinity.
    Why is that sch a challenge for some to believe?
    Why does it hv to be SO neat that God is implied in the doing of evil?
    It terrifies me and confuses me.


  3. LM – I would say that He most definitely lets them happen. I cannot speak to past lives and I’m not 100% sure what you mean by the term ‘karma’ so I’ll not comment on that. However I will say this. That God allows bad things to happen is beyond question because well, bad things happen and sometimes as we know to good people. I believe that this must be in order for God to allow us to exercise our free will. Somehow in all of the murkiness of theological, spiritual, metaphysical ‘stuff’ is that ever present and innate gift we have that separates human beings from the animals and plants and this the power of choice, in whatever we do. And somehow I feel it in my bones that our power of choice is somehow key in all this good stuff.

    Hi WS – you are always way too complementary of my writing. It’s the work of a hack but I do appreciate your kind words and I’m glad they speak to you. I always appreciate too your passionate and intense responses to my thoughts. It is gratifying to know that I’ve somehow struck a nerve with somebody out there and am able to find someone of like mind. I have said this before to you and I will say it again. You know far more than you think you know and the realization of that knowing will occur by following your intuition and your feelings.
    I had an interesting thought recently that you might appreciate. I also feel confused lately about what I believe, what TO believe but then it hit me, maybe this needs to happen. Maybe real faith, whatever that is, can only come when everything we thought we knew gets thrown into question and we are forced into letting those ‘beliefs’ go because really what they are is nothing but a bunch of religious statements and nothing that will ever allow us to meet up with God as He really is and to the best of our ability in this life. They are statements that we need to agree to in order to be let into the club, the Christian club, the Jewish club, the Islamic club, you name it. And maybe this is because ‘real’ faith doesn’t require intellectual assent to some dogmatic religious ‘truths’ and maybe (oh dear) just maybe some of them simply are not true. What if God actually wanted us to know who and what He really is and where to find him and what if the only way to do that was to clear our minds of all the silly, damaging and flat out wrong ideas we have about Him? It would be a long arduous process to clear our minds of all the stuff that has been programmed into them over the years would it not? And it would result in a hell of a lot of confusion when we get to the point where we don’t know what we believe anymore. I think this might just be where I am and so I’ll wait and see what happens. Truthfully I’m finding the whole thing pretty damn interesting.
    I would urge you to keep looking and don’t be down on yourself for doubting. Doubting is every bit a substantial part of any spiritual quest. It is not a weakness but a strength. It will enable you to be discerning, to not take everything at face value and to one day (hopefully) learn to trust yourself and what you already know, even though you don’t yet know you know it.

  4. As you may have read on my site, I recently had a week of spiritual growth. After spending months writing rational thoughts about the existence of God, I was finally granted an experience of God. It has faded, as such openings do, but it left me in a better place than before. What I believe this episode teaches is 1) it helps to think about God, even though does not substitute for experience; by pondering, we open ourselves. I'm not sure it matters what we think, as long as we make the effort. 2) when God does come, much becomes clear that makes all the rational ideas seem unimportant. God is a presence beyond words. 3) the world feels 'right' when one is in touch with God. I have ideas for how God works, and they differ from many other people's, but I believe that 'rightness' becomes clear to all who are granted a glimpse of the Source.

    'Rightness' does not negate tragedy, cruelty, and sorrow. But one cannot live without dying, or love without losing, which means life is inherently tragic. I don't believe God causes any particular catastrophe or bereavement. But the universe is set up in a way that sorrowful traumas are inevitable, so in that sense suffering must be part of God's plan. There is no hardship so great that one cannot grow as result of it, even if the vast majority of people are crushed. I think of 'Man's Search for Meaning', by Viktor Frankl. He was one of the very few people who found a rich experience in the holocaust.

    From my newfound and quite possibly temporary place of peace, I can see how my mother's suicide, my stepmother's cruelty, the loss of my career at age 42, psychiatric misery, and so on, all have contributed to my current clarity. Does that mean they were 'God's will'? I don't think so. But it does show that what begins as terrible pain can end with enlightenment.

    This provides scant comfort to the parents of the child who dies. But it could well be that twenty years later one or more of the siblings will end up as a more compassionate, altruistic person as a result. Everything that happens has consequences (karma) that ripple forward. We can't know the ultimate result of anything that happens, no matter how terrible. The asteroid collision that destroyed the dinosaurs no doubt caused dreadful suffering for all the animals on the planet. But it opened the door for mammals and, in time, humanity.

    We are small beings who live for just a short time. No matter how hard we think, or how many spiritual experiences we are granted, we will never understand more than a little. God's perspective is very, very large. When we judge the world, and its traumas, we need to keep that in mind. I do not believe God pulls puppet strings, or directly causes our suffering, but God is available to help us through it. God can help us convert grief into growth. It has taken me decades of struggle to get to a point where I can say that and mean it. I imagine a more intuitive and accepting person could have gotten the message much sooner.

    Sorry to go on and on here. I hope I don't sound like a know-it-all. I guarantee I do not take credit for any of what I think I understand. I feel that something vital was opened for me, and I feel obligated to try to articulate it. Your comments on my site were instrumental in guiding me. For instance, you made me realize that becoming 'spiritual' did not mean I would be released from hardship. Once I let go of that expectation, great peace began to flow.

  5. You don't sound like a know it all in the least. You sound like a person who has spent much time contemplating these things and your ideas are clear and rational and I could not have said it better myself and I, like you am also in a place where I feel something vital has been opened for me. And it has been a very long time coming and one hell of a painful time getting there. Somehow, some way suffering and struggle is part and parcel of ever increasing clarity. Thanks for putting your thoughts down here.

  6. On your question of where was God, one possibly contentious answer, might be, 'inside yourself'.

    One way of looking at it, is to say that all these horrible things are in oneselves, but we try to ignore them, or to pretend that they are all attributable to someone or something else.

    They are our 'shadow' - the black part of ourselves that we don't want to look into.

    In the Mythos DVD, Campbell stresses the importance of not ignoring this stuff. The phrase, probably coined by Jung, is 'finding gold in the shadow'. Try Googling for that phrase.

  7. Hi Anon
    Thanks for stopping by and your answer isn't contentious at all. In fact I'd say that you are right on target. That God is inside of ourselves is undeniable to me now. More's the pity that it takes some of us so long to figure that out and tragic that some of us never do.
    I have done plenty of reading on the shadow aspect of ourselves. I have seen it written more than once that having a good long look at that part of ourselves is the key to truly freeing our real nature. It is my hope to be able to do that myself one of these days soon.

    Thanks for your comments. I shall check out that DVD.