I find that when I get nice and comfy in a convenient life situation, where my emotional state sees minuscule fluctuation, I personally do not change. My character usually changes very little. Sometimes, I need sudden, extreme circumstances or actions to shake me up. When these extraordinary events happen, personal transformation is inevitable and it’s our response to the circumstance that determines the final outcome of that character transformation. I know there are perhaps better, more theologically foundational reasons, but this is one reason why I don’t make God out to be the “bad guy” when stuff happens.
When tragedy strikes, or oppressors prevail or whatever, it’s amazing how quickly we fall into our emotions. No pause, no contemplation - we just tumble into our despair and our pessimism. Such is common in a world dominated by the 1%, where global poverty guilt’s us into half-fake donations, where technology is what we turn to for left-or-right instructions and astrology is our source of comfort and guidance. Such is common when a person’s life is ended in the craze and idiocy of a world-wide drink-and-dare game that is only ever popularized for the opportune chance to be young, stupid, and invincible (or at least to continue being so). We tend to hate ourselves (and people) at the gross onset of a reality check. Life exists only once, but life will resume again elsewhere. You know what I’m talking about.
So when the nightmare of tragedy slithers into reality, why do we behave the way that we do?
Anger and weeping is natural and, sure, it’s a necessary process during the grieving and coping period following a lay-off, a death, or sudden bankruptcy, but I think we love it a little too much. Or maybe we don’t know when to stop. Or maybe we don’t know why we anger and weep and grieve in the first place. Personally, I think we are all pretty thoughtless with our emotions. We don’t think to step back. We don’t stop to consider the rest of the world – the rest of the story. We don’t need to be furious indefinitely. We don’t need to be cynical all the time. When we impetuously cry out our woes to the world around us, I’m afraid grief can sometimes become self-pity.
Choice, with all the risks involved, is an amazing concept - the ability to decide one direction or another, or to select one prize or another. It’s the ability to accept a wife or to refuse a bad business offer. It’s the privilege of selection which we use or abuse every moment of our lives. Our aspirations worship it. Our emotions depend on it. Our moral inclinations feed on it.
It’s interesting to think that, depending on our circumstance, choice may be considered a gift or a curse. I’d like to say that choice is always a gift and a blessing, but there are, as we all know, situations where choice offers only the benefit of selecting one peril or another. I feel that this is the kind of poop-situation that we find ourselves in in dire circumstances. In the thick of our hardship, when the choice to respond is ours, no matter what we decide to do we almost always lose something, be it reputation, blood, relationships, peace, comfort, love, hate, money or poverty. The thing is, to lose any of these things may or may not be a terrible thing. Our myopia often cripples our wisdom to the point where it dies, and we haven’t a clue what is pertinent or eternally beneficial. Hence, this is why choice can be such a curse.
Does God expect me to hit a home-run on the first pitch? I’m not sure. I certainly hope not because I think I’ve been struck out a couple dozen times. I guess that’s the point of grace. No matter how many times your rear’s been planted on the bench, coach says, “Go get ’em kid!” To remember the Father’s grace in the poop-situations is incredibly important.
I don’t agree with people who say, “It’s going to be okay.” Maybe God doesn’t want for the things to be okay, or at least not okay by our definition. Many people assume that because bad stuff happens, God is out of the picture or that we're out of the radar. I believe, however, that neither is ever true because of what the Bible says about bad stuff. In explaining the allowance of personal struggle, I think Oswald Chambers was bang on in the May 22nd article of his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. He writes,
“Since you became a disciple, you cannot be as independent as you used to be.
God reveals in John 17 that His purpose is not just to answer our prayers, but that through prayer we might come to discern His mind. Yet there is one prayer which God must answer, and that is the prayer of Jesus— “. . . that they may be one just as We are one . . .” (John 17:22). Are we as close to Jesus Christ as that?
God is not concerned about our plans; He doesn’t ask, “Do you want to go through this loss of a loved one, this difficulty, or this defeat?” No, He allows these things for His own purpose. The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, and nobler men and women, or they are making us more critical and fault-finding, and more insistent on our own way. The things that happen either make us evil, or they make us more saintly, depending entirely on our relationship with God and its level of intimacy. If we will pray, regarding our own lives, “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42), then we will be encouraged and comforted by John 17, knowing that our Father is working according to His own wisdom, accomplishing what is best. When we understand God’s purpose, we will not become small-minded and cynical. Jesus prayed nothing less for us than absolute oneness with Himself, just as He was one with the Father. Some of us are far from this oneness; yet God will not leave us alone until we are one with Him— because Jesus prayed, “. . . that they all may be one . . . .””
This knowledge shapes me. It shapes my perceptions, my ideas. It increases my value for life, and my appreciation of it. It alters my values. It affects the way I treat my relationships with others, my friends and my family. It changes the way I make decisions. It changes my approach to the tough questions like, “who do I blame for crap?” In a way, I do blame God for crap, but I should never forget to thank Him also.
This is partially why I believe the extreme circumstances we find ourselves in inevitably change us. So respond to life as we may, but let’s think about what governs our response and where we desire to end up when the dust settles.