a little east of reality

Saturday, October 22, 2005

god and life's hardships

This is a topic that I have wanted to blog about since the huge tsunami that devastated so much of Thailand, Sri Lanka and other countries last December. Where journalists tend to avoid references to God, at that time there was a flood of editorials and opinion pieces on how the tsunami and like disasters were clear evidence that God does not exist, or that if he does, he does not care about us. I read similar thoughts after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. I have also heard this kind of argument from people who have experienced some kind of cruelty or abuse, or are simply angry that they happen. If God exists, they insist, how could he allow something like that to happen? Some people even believe that God deliberately causes our trials (as opposed to simply allowing them to happen) - some of those believe he does that for our benefit and others see him as uncaring being who is playing with our lives (the 'big chessboard' version of life).

Today I happened across a related post on a blog Greg Burgas keeps to chronicle the adventures of his two daughters, Mia and Norah. Though it's a general blog about their lives, he and his wife also include information on how Mia is going with a brain injury Mia received when she was about eight months old. In one post Greg commented on a mother he had seen on television. The whole post is here, but basically he was offended by the fact that she had attributed some success in her daughter's case to prayer rather than to medicine or to the efforts of medical professionals and others. I'm pretty certain she wasn't trying to completely discount those things, but merely acknowledge God's part in it all, but it was certainly true that she attributed a lot to the power of prayer. It was this part of the post that caused me to leave a comment:
I have an adversarial relationship with God. In fact, I don't believe in God, because I don't really feel like believing that an all-powerful God would allow a flat bed tow truck to ram into my car, thereby almost killing my daughter and leaving her with a traumatic brain injury. That's not to say I didn't appreciate all the people who prayed for her in the days and weeks after her accident - I did, I just don't share your optimism. God may work in mysterious ways, but if he could have helped Mia in the days and weeks after the accident, as many people believe, then he could have made sure she wasn't in that position in the first place...

...Sorry about the rant. This kind of thing just makes me mad. It offends me because a LOT of human beings are helping Mia, as I'm sure they helped this girl, and to dismiss them in favor of some entity that, if you believe these sorts of things, gave your daughter the brain disease in the first place, gets me worked up.
My comment was as follows:
My guess is that she wasn't so much disregarding the effect of medicine as thinking that only prayer could have caused a baseball game to have had such a positive effect on her daughter. That was what the piece was about, right?

I find it hard to understand why people think that if God exists he would have to be the kind of being that would constantly intervene in our lives to prevent any bad thing from happening. If you protected your daughters from any serious challenge or trial that life might bring to them, do you think that would be good parenting? Doesn't it make more sense to let them face trials, but support them in doing so.

I know you don't believe in God, so it's just my opinion, but I think God sees our life tragedies a little more objectively than we do - that injury and illness and the fact that we are affected by the choices of others are simply the realities of this mortal existence and that preventing them doesn't make us better people, or even necessarily happier people. I think his goal is to help us develop strength and compassion by supporting us through life's trials, not by protecting us from them.

I really feel for your situation with Mia. This comment isn't intended to trivialise anything she is going through. But I think that God understands that a brain injury is not the worst thing that can happen in Mia's life. Even you have commented (in a more recent post) that Mia is a happy girl. And she CAN lead a happy life. Contrast that with the guy who has to live with the choice he made to carelessly reach for a map when he should have been driving more carefully.

You don't understand why people credit God for things that people do. I don't understand why people blame God for things that people do. Why should God have prevented the accident when it was so easy for the driver to have done so. If he takes away all the consequences of our free will, isn't he also taking away free will? Is that preferable? It's a sad reality that Mia should have to deal with the consequences of his choices and actions, but isn't that the flip side of her benefitting from the consequences of people's good choices and actions? We all experience both sides of that reality. It's just the way life is.
I'm interested in anyone's comments on the subject, but I am particularly interested in the opinions of those who do believe that God exists. What's your take on this? Do you think that God should intervene in our lives more? How do you think he sees our trials? Is it fair for us to have to deal with the consequences of other people's choices? How about other kinds of trials like natural disasters?