Friday, September 13, 2013

God Is Not A Gumball Machine

You know what I mean?

This post is just my little old opinion.  I'm no theologian, or anything.

It just seems to me that, at times in life, we kinda expect God to be like a gumball machine.  Or a vending machine.  We want to put the right currency in and have delightful things come out.  We have a desire -- a good desire.  Or a need -- a real need.  Or a terrible situation that we want to see put aright.  So, we have our Masses said, we do our Novenas, we pray our Rosaries, we pray in our own sincere, heartfelt words -- our currency -- and we try to have true Christian hope that God will grant our petitions. 

Please don't get me wrong.  There's nothing wrong with any of that.  It's all good.

Sometimes, though, I see a little bit of a problem.

Sometimes, I see people fast and pray and do all the "right" things, and their prayers are answered according to their wishes.  They get the "gumball."  And people talk about how they got the desired outcome because of all these spiritual things they did, or because of their holiness, or because of their great faith.  Sometimes, people even encourage those who have a real need by telling them that if they just have faith enough that their prayer will be answered in the way they hope.  And when their prayer is answered "positively," everyone celebrates this great faith, the great spiritual efforts put forth.  Everyone talks about how good God is because the desired outcome was granted.

But, you know, plenty of times our prayers don't seem to be answered.  At least not in the way we want them to be.  There is plenty of effort by the "prayer warriors."  Nobody seems to be slacking off.  But, employment or health or the return of "prodigal" children does not happen.  And I kind of worry about this.  I worry that the people who don't have their prayers answered in the "right" way will feel that they did something wrong.  That somehow they are not deserving.  That God does not love them as much as He loves the people whose "wishes come true."

I think about this a lot.  And I began thinking about it more yesterday, because I read an article in which a Christian woman spoke about how many of her Christian friends and acquaintances became atheists because of the financial crisis.  They felt like they had done everything to the best of their ability to please God, and then He didn't seem to be holding up His end of the bargain when they lost so much -- jobs, homes, life savings -- in the economic crash. 

Now, I know plenty of people who have lost much, who don't seem to get their prayers answered, and they still have faith that God is there.  They have faith that He is using everything for their good.  But, it must be pretty tough for them when they see Christians rejoicing over someone else's good fortune, when they hear people talking about how good God is because he granted x, y, or z to someone.   I also wonder if, at times, people who want to be "good" Christians don't express their hurt and disappointment in the way God seems to be treating them, because they don't want to set a bad example for others.  They don't want to give scandal.  So, I think -- perhaps -- that there are times when people try to have faith, or try to give an outward impression of having faith, when they are really struggling inside and the rest of us just can't see it.

What to do?  I don't really know.  I guess I have just come to a place in my life where I feel that the only real alternative -- the only way for me to have faith -- is just to speak to God honestly.  I try to speak to Him about my life and others' lives, what I like and don't like, where I am happy and where I am disappointed.  I just lay it all out for Him.  And then I try to trust that He is there.  I try to trust that He loves me and everybody else, too.  I ask Him to get us all home to Him, somehow.  And I try not to talk too incredibly much in the face of other people's pain.  Because, in wanting to help somebody out, I can really talk too much.  So, now, I'm trying to be quieter, to just listen more, to just be there.  I don't talk about all the prayers we should do or the faith we should have or even how I trust God to send a good outcome.  I don't say, "I trust that God will fully heal so-and-so of their cancer." (Believe me, I have heard people say such things.)  Because I don't know that God will do that.  But, I do believe God is with us and loves us.  I don't always understand why He allows what He allows.  And I'm not going to pretend that I do.  I'm not going to put on an act.  So, I will just try to be present to those who are hurting, and I will just try to trust in the presence of God.  And I will trust Him to handle it when I get annoyed with Him for allowing crap to happen in the world.  He's big enough for that. 

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