By Deacon Mark Comer
Visiting with people of different Christian denominations allows me to hear many varying beliefs about how God works in the world. Insights that are even more unusual come from those who do not attend church, often calling themselves “spiritual but not religious.”
In this age of “Vision 2020,” we often speak of those who follow no organized religion as “the Nones.” However, my experience in the hospital setting is that few people are without faith in God; rather, most lack faith in organized religion, often because of the sinfulness and even unattractiveness they see among us who are “believers.”
To present our faith practice attractively we would do well to reflect on what our faith teaches us, because much of what we depend on and expect others to believe is sadly lacking attractive truth. We tell the suffering mourner, “God must have needed their loved one in heaven;” the cancer patient, “you need to trust God in order to receive healing;” and the depressed and overwhelmed, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
However, many people suffer more than they can handle. Suggesting that God is taking their loved ones away from them, making them sick and waiting for them to beg for healing, or testing them with trials, makes God seem rather mean. No wonder so many tell me they “are mad at God.” I’d be mad at God too if I believed he killed my relatives, gave me illnesses or “blessed” some people with wealth and denied it to me.
Recently, a patient talked with me about being angry with God after suffering alone at home. When I asked whether the suffering was continuing, the patient said no because neighbors brought the patient to the hospital and doctors had healed the patient.
An old but truthful joke tells of a man who received a warning that a flood was coming, so he prayed for God to save him. A firefighter, a rescue worker in a boat and a helicopter all came and offered deliverance but the man refused saying, “God will save me.” After drowning and now standing in heaven, the man asks God why he let him die. God says with exasperation, “I sent a firefighter, a boat and a helicopter!”
Can we see that God answered that patient’s prayer? As mature seekers and followers of God’s truth, we should also know the church’s teaching on God’s grace. We might then lead others to see that good and evil exist in our fallen world but only the good is from God. Humans can do little good apart from God but are capable of supernatural good when we seek and accept his grace, allowing God to work through us. We are not yet in heaven and bad things happen on this side of the veil, but we can attract and build the kingdom of heaven on earth.
(Deacon Mark Comer is a member of St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt and Hematology and Oncology Chaplain for UIHC.)