As a country we find ourselves in the wake of another mass shooting. Less than 24 hours after the shooting, the NY Daily News places a front page stating ‘GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS’. It criticizes republican presidential candidates for tweeting out concern and prayers for the victims, their families and law enforcement. The title is well written, it creates an instant sense of scandal, puts both ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ into a position of attack or defense, simply put it is trolling at its best.
My initial reaction was to get defensive.
- How dare they say this about my God!
- Doesn’t California have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation?
- Praying for victims and their families, and seeking better gun control are not mutually exclusive.
- Finally, I just started praying for gun control as well as for healing and the victims. Take that NY Daily News.
It got a bit ridiculous and I gave it the exact attention they wanted.
God does not need me to defend Him. God puts on his big boy pants every day. So let’s talk about a bigger point, one that the title of the article inadvertently brought forth. What is God’s role in our lives? Is God called to be Mr. Fix It or is there a greater purpose for His role with you, me and the ones we serve?
God is love, yet violence like this exists in our world. Why hasn’t God fixed this yet? God loves us right? Jesus did not die on the cross to make us comfortable, he died to save us. This saving action goes beyond our initial desires and takes us to deeper ones.
As a father, there are countless times where I allow my children to struggle and be uncomfortable for the sake of a greater purpose. A purpose they often cannot see.
One much wiser than I said ‘don’t ask God for your problems to go away, ask God for the strength to face your problems.’ St. Paul says it in an even more positive way Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Yet, in ministry we still find ourselves at a loss. I cannot tell the person who is battling depression that they just need to get stronger. My interaction cannot give the impression that their battle with depression will go away if they just let God in. God is already present in their struggle. God will not fix everything, and that’s o.k. He is a Savior, not a handyman.
As ministers, as Christians, how do we move forward in light of the frustration that can come when the Mr. Fix It approach to God shows itself? How do we journey with people when the struggle with the question ‘why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people?’
Acknowledge and validate the concern.
The Christian journey is not an easy one. It’s important to acknowledge this reality. Often, my temptation is to explain the concern away or get defensive for my God, but God can handle people questioning him. Here are some great tips on the art of listening.
Talk about the value of suffering.
The deep example of love shown to us on the cross showcases the value of suffering. Christians, or little Christs, should follow this example and seek to offer our sufferings up to God for the salvation of souls. This is easier said than done.
Invite God into the mess.
Pastoral moments where frustrations with God are voiced are intimate windows into the soul of those you are journeying with. Always take time to offer a prayer inviting God into the situation. The individual may not feel worthy or, like me, would rather get their affairs in order and make sure they are perfect prior to inviting God into their life. I think of the manger at times like these. The manger was a mess, animals fed there, and yet Christ choose to be born in such a humble place. In doing this he says to us that he will come to us no matter the mess. We must simply welcome him.
Be Christ’s love to that person.
Finally, seek to be Christ’s love to that person. A variety of hurt, brokenness and other factors can lead to laying blame on God. An individual may not be open to God, but may be open to you. This is where we can act as the hands and feet of Christ carrying forth God’s love and mercy.
Tragedy exists. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Yet, God is good, all the time. He is not Mr. Fix It, but rather the amazing care giver that knows our potential both as individuals and as humanity. He is unafraid of letting us experience the difficulties that help us grow. He delights when we take those opportunities to embrace sacrifice and model His endless love to others.