Reconstructing Our Images of God
As a clinical chaplain and grief counselor, I am often confronted with images of God that create more suffering than solace when people have experienced a traumatic loss. The question they usually ask is, "Why would a loving God let this happen?" Or they will say, "I thought if I was a faithful Christian and pleased God, nothing bad would ever happen to me, so why did my child die? What did I do wrong?"
I tell them that the answer depends what they think God is.
If we see God as a man-in-the-sky who randomly dispenses joy or sorrow, reward or punishment, then we have constructed a god that exists outside of us, separate from us, residing somewhere "out there" in a place that we can never reach. We expect that god to protect us like a doting mother hen, and when protection isn't provided, we are shocked and dismayed. That god not only fails to protect us (despite our earnest pleas and efforts to "earn" that protection through pious devotion), it also places unreasonable conditions on its love. But even if we devote our lives to meeting those conditions and understanding the divine plan, there is no guarantee of protection.
Why? Because it doesn't work that way.
Seeing God as a protective/authoritative parent is an infantile view that separates and disempowers us. If we think that God's love is is supposed to provide us with a conflict-free existence, we will always be disappointed. Because when that expectation is not met -- and it can never be met -- we end up focusing more on our feelings of anger and abandonment than on the valuable lessons these experiences were designed to teach us.
By contrast, if we see God as a connective fiber that links every action in the universe in an interdependent movement toward wholeness, then there's no reason why this force would shield us from discomfort and conflict. Instead of wondering why bad things are allowed to happen, consider instead that there are no "good" or "bad" things in the universe, only the creations that move us forward in our evolution. We cannot judge these creations, because they are necessary in order for growth and expansion to occur. They are there to provide traction, something to push against, like a swimmer pushing off the edge of a pool.
Copyright 2014 by Terri Daniel
Embracing Death: A New Look at Grief, Gratitude and God
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