False Comforts

I was going to try to write a whole post on various cliches we Christians like to throw about in times of trouble, things we like to say to offer comfort and hope to people when we can't figure out what really needs to be said, if anything.

But I'm going to just focus on one. It usually goes something like this:

"Wow, that's amazing that (so-and-so) survived (such-and-such)! God must really have a special plan for that person!"

I'm sure you've come across this at some point in your life (whether you were the one speaking it or receiving it.) But today, I want to just break this down for you, piece by piece. Let's look at what this is actually saying.

First, I'll give you the context behind this post. Somebody on facebook had posted something about a little girl who had survived the Sandy Hook shooting by playing dead. As I was scrolling down through the comments, the following two struck me:

"That child has purpose, a calling on her life."

"How sad is that, but God had a plan for that little girl!"

At first, these seem like deep, powerful statements that pay tribute to God's saving grace. But if we look at them more closely, really analyze what they are saying, we can see that they are actually saying that mankind has no free will and that God plays our lives like a giant chess game.

So, let us talk about what these are ACTUALLY saying. 

To say that a lone survivor of this horrible tragedy "has purpose," a "calling on her life," and that "God had a plan" for her, is inadvertently saying that those who did not survive did not have a calling on their lives, or that they were somehow not part of God's plan. This kind of statement basically tells the families of the other survivors, "Your family member wasn't important enough to God for Him to save."

This is a TERRIBLE thing to say. Mainly because it is absolutely not true.

God's "plans" for humans have never included death. In the beginning, when the world was perfect, the way God intended it, He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He was present, here, with his creation. That's how it was supposed to always be. And before the Fall (before sin entered the world), THERE WAS NO DEATH. Why would there be no death? Well, if we were all perfect, then there was no reason to die. Death came about as a result of human decision to defy God. In essence, we brought death upon ourselves. (Well, Adam and Eve did. I mean, I certainly wasn't around six or seven or however many thousand years ago. Maybe you were. But anyway. I digress.) That first act of human decision had two very distinct results: 

     1. We could no longer live forever. I mean, we were messed up.
     2. We now had the ability to always choose between right and wrong and understand our decisions.

This whole "free will" thing that Christians talk about all the time--it doesn't just affect the person making the decision. It affects other people as well. Possibly many people. There's that whole domino-effect idea, where one decision will turn into another and another and another. Or, you know, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, if you will. But with fewer movies and more real-life events.

So, a decision you make today, as inconsequential as it may seem, may affect some person you have never met--and may never meet--two years from now.

The whole point of that discussion is this: To say that God's plan was to save one person would mean that His plan was also that 26 other people would die. And not only that, but that His plan was for Adam Lanza to go into that school with guns and open fire on innocent little children. 

Let me make this clear: God did not want Adam Lanza to shoot anyone. Ever. God does not want bad things to happen. Ever. He does not sit at some judge's bench in the sky with a giant gavel commanding one person to die because someone else needs to learn a lesson, or deciding that some person has had a full enough life and so it's "their time to go."

God is the father standing next to the closed coffin, weeping with his fists clenched on the cold, hard wood, weeping because he doesn't understand why this happened to his child, why this happened to anyone's child. Weeping because he doesn't understand how someone can make the decision to take guns into a school and kill children, for God's sake.

God is the mother standing outside the school watching her blood-covered daughter run to her and thinking, "My God, she's alive! My baby is alive!" And then feeling a pain in her heart that will never quite leave her, because she has friends standing there with her who will never see their babies again.

God is the pastor, the friend, the counselor, trying to bring comfort and peace to those grieving their losses, holding them and weeping with them quietly, because there is nothing to say, nothing that can ever really answer the questions. 

But God is NOT the person on a message board, or in the church, or at work, saying that there must be a purpose for that lone survivor's life. 

Because the thing is, there is a purpose for every life.

Those twenty children, the six adults, and yes, even Adam Lanza--all of them had a purpose for their lives, whether that purpose had yet been realized or not. All of them were precious in God's eyes. Every single one of them. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

So please don't go around talking about God's plan for this one and His purpose for that one, unless you are going to also talk about the beautiful, purposeful, important lives that were sadly cut short. Not by God's will. But by the decision of a human being. 

If you can't think before you speak, then just stay silent. It's okay to not have answers. And it's okay to not know what to say. I promise. 



New Day


For the past several years, I have been feeling in the deepest parts of my spirit that some sort of change was coming for me, for my family. I've had no clue as to what kind of change that might be, though we felt the beginning stirrings of it almost 2 years ago when God moved us from one church home and planted us in another. But I feel that the change, whatever it is, may be nearing its culmination.

I have been dealing with a lot of stress lately. There are a number of things going on contributing to this stress, but the current that constantly runs beneath all of it is the fact that I still have not fully dealt with the death of my daughter over four years ago. And that has influenced how I handle things - big things as well as little things. Things like interactions with my husband, my outlook on life, and even how I am raising the two children I now have. I am very aware that this issue needs to be dealt with, and I am taking steps toward dealing with it. But in the meantime, my stress levels have been gradual building.

Today, I was driving around after dropping off my husband at work. The kids were asleep in their car seats in the back, and I was conversing in my head with God. We are on the cusp of so many possibilities - a possible house, possible school for my husband, possible preschool for my daughter - and for so long it has just felt like my life has been bound up in the unknown. I feel like I have been tossed about, jarred against one wall and then another, until I finally stopped fighting it and let myself be bruised and broken from the jarring. And all of a sudden, as I was silently talking with God, silently weeping as I drove, this phrase just stuck in my head - "New day." It was almost like a voice spoke it. And without forethought, my whole being suddenly began crying out to God, resonating with the phrase - "New day! New day! New day! New day! New day!" I didn't vocalize it, but I was crying, and if I had actually said it out loud, it would have been gut wrenching and without breaths between the words.

It was the first time I have had a prayer wrack my body to the core.

And I'm not even sure what the prayer meant. And by that I mean, I did not plan that prayer, didn't think it out. It just...poured out of me. I think that was literally the Spirit praying for me. It was an intense experience. For those several seconds, all that consumed my mind, my heart, my soul, and even my body, was "New day!"

I feel like we will begin to see answers within the next month. And while I am not sure exactly what this "new day" will entail, I am eager to find out. And with all my being, I will look for it.