Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Flash: Two Bloggers Speak Honestly of Dying

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
I wasn't going to link to Denise Spencer's personal memoir of her husband's death (Sometimes It's Just Plain Hard), simply because so many others have done so already. I will only say that it's one of the finest things I've ever read for it's sheer unblinking honesty.

Anyway, the reason I link to it now is because I've just read David Wayne's response, The Truth is Uglier Than We Think, God is More Beautiful Than we Realize. Both of these posts are must-reads.

The crux of David's post is this: "I find that very few Christians are able to accept that we live in a fallen world." Thus, they are surprised and even affronted by death, when it touches their lives. David adds some wise words from a book called I Told Me So, by Greg Ten Elshof:
Terminal cancer wards are full of patients who believe things we all know to be radically improbable. They believe that they will be one of the very, very few who fight back and win-or that they’ll be the recipient of a miracle healing in response to the prayers of friends and family. It’s not just that they believe that they could get better-that God could perform a miracle on their behalf. In this they’re surely correct. No. They believe they will get better-that God will perform a miracle on their behalf. Nearly all of them are wrong. And anyone familiar with the statistics is well situated to see that they are. But-and this is the most salient part for our discussion-nobody corrects them. In fact, they are encouraged to persist in these highly improbable beliefs.
I know this so well, and have observed it often: Christians confused and dismayed about suffering. Surely it's not God's will, they say, as if they'd never read Genesis 3 or heard it preached.

I know a fellow who has sat by the bedside of many dying people, and he tells me that there's no way to predict how someone will pass through that portal--as if the faithful should always "pass" with beatific smiles, while the unbeliever goes in abject fear to the grave. Sometimes, my friend has told me, it's quite the other way around. But doesn't it demonstrate a horribly maimed understanding of the world, of life, and of God that so many of us feel surprised to discover that death is not more friendly to believers than to unbelievers?

I have heard Christians say, "Surely it is not God's will that His children should suffer." Besides completely ignoring Genesis 3, a piece of Scripture that ought to be foundational to our understanding of the world, they ignore Jesus' own words recorded at Matthew 16:24-25. Their rose-colored glasses only do themselves and others harm.

But the Biblical truth about suffering--that God hides himself in suffering--which David delineates so well in his post, runs exactly counter to the "you gotta believe" form of Christianity, which expects faith to act as a magical get-out-of-suffering card. Here faith is reduced to a confidence that one's desired outcome will surely come to pass here and now, and trusting God is reduced to trusting Him to give you what you most desire here and now. What else can a God be for, after all, if not to satisfy our desires? For these people, it seems that God looks at your confidence level, which is the key to all his promises, and rewards you accordingly. In this view, our faith determines everything, and God is not sovereign!

But every now and then someone has to mention that "sometimes it's just plain hard." Two truth-telling bloggers have done so in a rare and beautiful way.


n. davis rosback said...

truth with Love.
good to read these, thanks.

Erin Hope said...

glad someone wrote this.