Monday, April 30, 2012

Judging God on Second-Hand Evidence

Today I heard from three friends, all of whom have great faith...and great trials.  One is facing having to stop her cancer treatments because she can't afford to continue, another's sister in law is being sent home to die from a cancer they thought they had gotten and a third has had to sell her car just to keep afloat as she looks for a job.

I know the Scriptures that say God takes care of us, that he answers when he ask, etc. but news like this shakes my faith.  I can understand why a scholar like Bart Ehrman, who once was a devout Christian, can become an agnostic when the absence of God is more real than God's presence.

Even more to the point, news like this makes me wonder, no, fear, that just as God has let down my friends, he may let me down as well. He may not answer my prayers, either.  I may ask for bread and be given a scorpion, just like my friends.

When those thoughts come, and they do come, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that I cannot judge God on second-hand evidence.  Even though I think I know what my friends have prayed (and I may have even prayed with them!), I cannot know what the prayers deep in their hearts have been.  Nor can I know exactly how God is dealing with them. 

Oh I can guess.  And they can tell me what they want me to know.  But it still remains second-hand evidence.  The only absolute evidence that I can use to judge God is how he deals with me.

These past 16 months have been the hardest of my life. There is no way, if I had been shown them ahead of time would I have believed I could have survived.  Yet, I have survived. Sometimes it feels like survival by the skin of my teeth, but I have survived. 

I'd like to say that through it all I've felt God's presence yada yada yada, but that would be a mistruth. A lot of the time I've cried out into the dark and heard only the echo of my own sobs.  God has not been the ever-present comforter that some people claim to experience.  A lot of the time I've felt only a void, an emptiness and a profound fear for what might be next.

I'd probably give up on God except that I feel like Peter--"Where would I go?" If I abandoned my faith in the Divine, in the ineffable mystery, in that which is beyond me and my ego, where indeed would I go? 

Today, after swallowing the pieces of bad news, I went to my confessor after having done what 12 Steps call an inventory of my past.  Over the weekend, I had examined my life from earliest days and now came to confess all those things done and undone, said and unsaid that may still be having an affect on my life.  In his wisdom, Fr. Richard said that when one removes a whole lot of sin, it creates a void that we must fill consciously, lest the garbage of the world swirl into the hole. 

So today I'm praying that I can know what to fill the hole that I have first-hand evidence upon which to judge the promises of God. 

Because I really really want to believe that they are all true.


  1. Woodeene, I've been there many times. And yet, I must say that when i get REALLY serious with God (as opposed to whining, moaning, bitching, etc.) and say "As far as I can tell, I really, really need X (I'm open to correction) so I'm standing before you like all those importunate women in Scripture and I'm not leaving until you give me what I need. I'm open to your provision in any form, i don't care how it comes or in what form, but X seems to be non-negotiable. So I'm staying here, asking and knocking and seeking until you, my loving Father, give me what I need. And I must say, when I get that serious, He has already responded - and soon.

    But a good deal of the time, I'm just kvetching - not really knocking or seeking and there does seem to be a difference somehow.

  2. Down and dirty, honest and real - that's what I like about you, Woodeene. And this is true prayer. Saying it how it is. I think of two stories from scripture: the importunate neighbor who will not stop knocking on the door; and Jacob wrestling through the night: I will not let thee go unless thou bless me.

    Keep knocking. keep wrestling. I suspect that these are not just prayers - but answers to prayer - the true engagement.


I'd love to hear your comments. Let's talk!