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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 177 - Is God Really Good?

We're linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday, a great marriage resource!

When bad stuff happens to you, it's a lot easier to maintain your spiritual equilibrium than when it happens to someone you love.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Barb's Dad had a massive stroke over the Fourth of July Weekend. The prognosis is really fluid; stroke does not lend itself to easy predictions.

And I asked myself, where is God in all this? Dick is a great guy; he was widowed in 2013, and has found love again with a wonderful, warmhearted woman. Why this?

What on Earth are you doing, God? If You allow all that happens, and yet ensure that it happens 'for our good', where does this fall?

One argument I've heard trotted out is that 'bad' things happen to prevent something worse from happening. It sounds plausible when you're late for work and pass a traffic accident on your way in,one that you could have been involved in, but I don't think it's a good idea to present to the bereaved mother of a toddler who's just been hit by a car...or to a woman whose Dad may never talk again.

It's a fallacious argument because it starts from the end and backfills. It takes as a given that God is good, and then does what it has to to reinforce the conclusion. It hasn't proven anything. It's merely a form of special pleading based on an unquestioned assumption.

Another argument is similar in that it makes the point that this experience is what the individual in question needed for growth, and that the 'no harm' clause is one that takes an eternal view. This is a bit more robust, and certainly more of an adult argument.

There are still problems. The obviously begged question as to whether the lesson could have been less severe is essentially meaningless, because we don't see the 'eternal' part of the picture. We cannot have or even understand all the facts.

But the meaningful question is that many of these extreme experiences seem to be tests, because what some would call a refining fire burns many people to a crisp. It gives the impression of God saying, Well, you didn't measure up, so adios!

Does God test us like this? perhaps, but some of these tests are thus viciously unfair, and would certainly justify a question as to His mercy.

To me, the only robust argument is the one that accepts the necessity of free will, both in our hearts and by extension in the natural world. Free will lets us choose God, or reject Him, and it certainly covers the randomness of the world in which we find ourselves.

God is therefore not the agent of our miseries, beyond having set up a Creation that must, for internal consistency, include them. He is here as our support and comfort, and we're supposed to turn to Him in faith when the night gets too dark to bear.

There's no 'guide to getting prayers answered'. There's no formula, because to supply some kind of hidden secret code would completely obviate the need for faith, and destroy whatever understanding we have of Jesus' sacrifice. He died horribly, in the temporal sense; and for us to use coded prayers to escape bad things is rather a slap in the face to His pain.

Miracles? yes, the y happen, and I have seen them, but I believe that miracles are contextual. They are performed for a purpose, and reading the Gospels tends to support this. Jesus did not set up a series of mass 'miracle services'. He healed here and there, to prove a point, and to reinforce His role.

So, is God good? To me, the answer's a resounding yes, because he's helping me comfort my wife in faith, and in the hope that however this plays out, one day she'll be reunited with her beloved Dad, freed of any and all infirmities.


If you have a mment, I'd like to ask you to visit Change.org to consider a petition to free a 'death row dog' who has been separated from his family for ten months over a misunderstanding. Marley was saved from Afghanistan by a US serviceman; please help make sure this story doesn't end in needless tragedy!

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  1. Deep and personal thoughts on the "why do bad things happen...?" question, Andrew. Thank you for sharing from your heart and mind...and bringing it over to Coffee and Conversation!
    I'll be adding Barb's dad to my prayer list...please keep us updated as she and you are comfortable with and can, ok?!
    Have a blessed day, friend!

    1. Pat, please pardon the delayed reply. Barb's Dad is hanging in there. The prognosis depends on how much damage was permanent, and your prayers are very much appreciated.

      I'll keep you updated.

  2. Hard things. You have your share.

    1. Susan, yes...but I do try to remember this -

      "I wept because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet."

      There are yet good things, and they deserve to be appreciated.

  3. Praying for Barbara, Dick's wife, and you, even as we speak.

    1. Linda, thank you so much. The prayers are very much appreciated and needed. The situation is in flux.

  4. Very well-done and thought-provoking post, Andrew, on a topic that is so very complex and thorny. I agree that if everything made sense, what would the be the purpose of having faith? That's a big part of what I see in this conundrum. So I always land on the fact that God is good, even when it doesn't feel like it or seem like it. With that said, I pray that our good God is comforting Barbara and strengthening you for that comforting role as well. It sounds as if He already is. Prayers for Barbara's dad too. Keep us all posted. I'm sure I'm not the only one concerned and wanting to pray for him.

    Glad to see you so robust behind a post! You must be rallying, my friend! Hugs to you

    1. Beth, this was a very hard post to write, because I'm so very 'involved'. But yes, one has to fall back onto the understanding that God IS good, and that the bad stuff may simply be a requirement of His Creation...something He can't alter without making the whole thing meaningless.

      Thank you so much for the prayers. The situation is fluid; there's really no way to know what permanent damage has been done until the swelling in the brain goes down.

  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this often-discussed subject...does God really let things happen to "test" us?! I feel I would horribly fail the test if that is what he is doing! I do feel He IS good; I feel as you have mentioned, we have FREE WILL. It is OUR choices that put us where we are and we must "pay" the consequences of our actions. I feel He USES our actions, our choices, to help move us forward in what He has planned for us.

    Prayers continue for you and your side-kicks; and especially for Barb, her father, his wife...the family! Hugs and Prayers, Barb...I can relate so well!

    1. Barbara, that is so well-said! Thank you!

      We really, really appreciate the prayers. It's been a hard week.

  6. Andrew, this is a profound post. You are definitely a wise guy in more ways than one. ;-) Sorry for the play on words. Seriously, what you wrote shows wisdom. I'll keep praying for you and your family.

    1. Jan, I loved the play on words! I rarely smile (and never laugh), but you did give me a broad and genuine smile. Thank you for that.

      We so appreciate the prayers. It's bee a week of ups and downs; a hard week.

  7. This is one of those confusing topics but imprtant to ask questions. I like to think, God is good, but life is hard.
    Barbara and you are in crushing circumstances. And you have to go through it. We, as your friends, will support you as best we can. Know this, we care.
    Still praying and with renewed vigor.

    1. Norma, we so appreciate the care and the prayers! The situation's fluid right now. There's no way of saying how bad it is (it IS bad).

      And yes...God is good, but life is very, very hard.

  8. My wife has had several strokes. Mild in comparison to your father-in-law, but werious never the less. She lost her piano skills, speech, peripheral vision, driving skills. Some has returned and therapy has also helped. My great fear is that she will have a massive one, and I will have to put her in a home. I am planning for that worst case scenario, but hope for a better outcome. My wife's fear is that I become incapacitated first, or die. She would have no one to take care of her. I think God is in all of this, but I have to take my cautions as well. Our medical community is very good at keeping us alive longer, but they have not quite figured out what to do with this aging population that have all kinds of age related disabilities.

    1. Mick, first, our prayers are with you and your wife. You're facing something that's very frightening, no mistake, and the stock answers about God's love don't work in this bourn.

      You're right, that doctors have gotten good at prolonging life but have hung back from the ramifications...and much of the clergy has abandoned those in this gyre of quicksand to send 'prosperity' messages to the young and healthy.

      I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.