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God Loves You, And Has A Wonderful Plan For Your Life

May 2, 2012

הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים אָמַר קֹהֶלֶת הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים הַכֹּל הָבֶל

So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly… In my vain life I have seen everything; there are righteous people who perish in their righteousness, and there are wicked people who prolong their life in their evildoing.

How many times have you heard some sort of deterministic, flowery phrase that generally goes like this, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”? If you run in Christian circles this is generally accompanied with some poached Bible verses, “Before you were born, even when the Lord was forming you in your Mother’s womb. He knew you. And even more, the Lord declares, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.'” [this is even more effective if you can imagine the sort of rhetorical flourish that is used when preaching such things]

Bill Hybels takes this sort of feel-good deterministic philosophy to its extreme limits when he writes, “He’s the God who has orchestrated every event of your life to give you the best chance to get to know Him, so that you can experience His love.”

This type of philosophy is very comforting, assuring, and arrogantly self-aggrandizing when everything is coming up roses. It’s easy in our era of history to feel ridiculously blessed, especially in first-world countries. In the scope of human history we are incredibly, stupidly wealthy. Most of us can decide what we want to eat for every meal, every day! We have so much damned food that obesity is killing people! Take a look at the majority of humans who have lived in subsistence cultures throughout the history of humankind, and then compare that to the ridiculousness of us having so much food it’s killing us.

But even in the midst of our incredible luck of being born in the right place at an extremely advantageous time: reality still happens. Or maybe more appropriately: death, sickness, and chaos happen… and the above ‘philosophy’ is found wanting.In fact, it should cause any sane thinking person serious pause and cognitive dissonance if they actually believe there is some higher power directing every event in human experience.

When things do go bad–and they eventually will–shocked people ask: How could this happen? Why is God doing this to me? Why is the universe not giving me my every selfish whim and desire? If everything happens for a reason, what is the reason that this is happening? What is God trying to teach me?

This weekend here in Canada, a pastor and his family were killed in a horrific car crash

Shannon Wheaton holds his son Benjamin, wife Trena Thompson-Wheaton and son Timothy. Shannon, his wife and Benjamin were among the seven who died in the Highway 63 crash on Friday

 

A congregation in Fort McMurray has been left devastated after their pastor, and two of his family members, were killed in a horrific highway crash.

Rev. Shannon Wheaton, a family ministries pastor, his wife Trena Thompson-Wheaton and their two-year-old son Benjamin are among seven people killed in the wreck that rocked the city Friday.

“It’s a real tragedy, such a huge blow,” said pastor Regina Oppon, who worked alongside Wheaton at the Family Christian Centre. “We wish it could be a dream, that God could give them all back to us.”

According to Wood Buffalo RCMP, two trucks collided on Highway 63 around 12 p.m. near Boyle, when a northbound pickup carrying three people attempted to pass another vehicle.

It struck the southbound pickup truck carrying Wheaton, Trena and their two sons — Benjamin and Timothy.

Mark and Courtney Penney, two of the Wheaton’s close family friends, were also travelling with them.

Courtney — a 34-year-old pregnant Fort McMurray resident — was killed in the fiery crash along with Shannon, Trena and Benjamin…

Wheaton, who counselled [sic] families at the church and ran the youth Sunday service, was especially good with children, said Oppon.

“He had a gift. He could reach them,” she said through tears. “The kids are all mourning.”

The East Coast transplant spent three years as a children’s pastor in his native Newfoundland at the Windsor Pentecostal Church before moving to Fort McMurray.

FULL STORY HERE

I have said this before, I will say it again

Pat answers are always shattered on the anvil of experience by the hammer of life

Pat answers are always shattered on the anvil of experience by the hammer of life. It might not be today, but it will be a tomorrow.

Bad things will happen.

 

People you know will die. Some horribly and unfairly.

 

You will get sick, and you will die.

 

There is no magic formula, there is only the illusion of control: Life is random; it is chaotic.

The human experience can be characterized by joy, happiness, and laughter. Playing golf on a beautiful sunny day. A bike ride with a friend. A child running to jump into your arms when you come home. Life can have great existential fulfillment.

It can also go very wrong.

A heart attack. A cancer diagnosis. A car accident. A child runs out for a ball or is left unattended at a pool for a couple of minutes… Fire can kill you. Water can kill you; heck drinking too much water can kill you… there are a lot of ways to die!

Existence; and then suddenly: non-existence.

Chaos…

A few different elements come together in the human psyche that I think is a major influence for some forms of religion. One, we all know we are going to die. Two, we don’t know when. Three, humans are meaning makers. Humans have a natural proclivity and innate ability to make sense of the madness. Of course some do this better than others, and some options are more attractive than others.

The ugly side of this tendency is when a tragedy does happen (and they always will) and a well-meaning dilettante suggests the “reason” why: God needed another flower in heaven; you must have unconfessed sin in your life; you attracted it to yourself with negative thoughts, energy, or karma. The attractive side of this tendency–for some–is that if they can figure out the “principles” by which God or the universe operates then they can navigate life–and avoid death–more successfully.

From within this matrix there is the illusion of control. If I know the principles (biblical or universal) then I can control the chaos. Often, I think, what makes “sense” to some attracted to the manipulatable “principles” is that we are all inculcated in the scientific age and are deeply ingrained in post-enlightenment thought, so we know that causes have effects. If I eat more calories than I use I will get fat. If I drop a pencil it will go down and not up. Our world works a certain way and we use our knowledge of how it operates to navigate it quite successfully; however, as we all know: life doesn’t always go the way we planned. Sometimes it can go horribly wrong. The miracle of human flight is a great example of this because sometimes that miracle becomes a tragedy when the flying hunk of metal falls from the sky.

Death is coming no matter what you do.

And like it or not: that is reality, and, most unfortunately, it accounts for the totality of human experience.

הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים אָמַר קֹהֶלֶת הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים הַכֹּל הָבֶל

So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly… In my vain life I have seen everything; there are righteous people who perish in their righteousness, and there are wicked people who prolong their life in their evildoing.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2012 11:52 am

    I’m not one to pile on, so I left this out of the above article, but the Bible verse in the bulletin the week before this pastor was struck by a vehicle driving in the wrong lane was:

    “For this God is our God for ever and ever;
    he will be our guide even to the end.” Psalm 48:14

    You can’t make stuff like that up… but I will respect the grieving process in this terrible tragedy [and it is incredibly sad] and refrain from any jokes.

    • taps4theworld permalink
      May 2, 2012 4:59 pm

      I’m not quite sure i get what you’re saying. What is wrong with that verse? good article by the way theodicy is a difficult concept.very difficult. I think the best response is that of Job’s friends. simply sit…grieve,mourn & reflect silently.

      • trj permalink
        May 4, 2012 6:12 pm

        What agathos is saying is that a guide who leads you to your death is not much of a guide. However, feel free to insist God did it for a purpose.

        • taps4theworld permalink
          May 5, 2012 12:01 pm

          Ah , okay i get what he means now , thanks for clearing it up. And i’m not insisting on this happening for a purpose. Sadly these things happen,just like tower collapses in siloam.

  2. May 2, 2012 4:58 pm

    In the past couple of weeks, a 42 year old wife and mother of 2 pre-teens cancer survivor and full-time volunteer at a Christian school my wife once worked at died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm. A week later, the 3 day old infant of a couple involved in youth ministry (known to us from a different stage in our lives and located in a different part of the country) could not survive having been born with only three chambers in his heart. In both these situations, the people involved come from an anti-Calvinist tradition, but the chatter on FB still surrounded “God’s will” and “God taking” the deceased. One person wrote “God has a mighty plan for you guys. What a great God!” It is amazing how much cognitive dissonance we will tolerate.

  3. May 4, 2012 4:56 am

    Sure, everything happens for a reason – it’s called cause and effect. Buggerall supernatural woo involved.

    I had an aunt who lingered in terrible pain for over a year as cancer ate her face – if that’s all part of some plan, then it’s a plan masterminded by one sick, repugnant, uncaring fiend.

    For what it’s worth, if someone dared to try and tell me how awesome god is after I’d lost a loved one, I would be inclined to punch them (repeatedly) in the face. I’d probably restrain myself to a “f*** off”.

  4. Justmyopinion permalink
    May 6, 2012 9:02 am

    The bottom line here is…. “shit happens”.

  5. Brian M permalink
    May 7, 2012 3:50 pm

    “Shit happens” is actually far more comforting to me than the converse, which at heart can be reduced to:

    There is this vast, incomprehensible and malelovent intelligence who sits up there outside time and space and plays sick games with setnient beings. For fun. And for some sick master plan that will result in the vast majority of said sentient beings being condemned to suffer for ever and ever. Because He loves us.

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