6-17-15 - God, Don't You Care?

Fear has a way of taking over so that the danger is all we can see. And, like most forms of misery, fear loves company, intensifying as it multiplies. Together, we can come up with many more scenarios of doom than we can alone, right? And when we’re in that cycle, it can almost been affront to encounter someone who’s not hooked by the anxiety of the moment, who is calm or hopeful. “What’s the matter with you?” we cry. “Can’t you see how bad this situation is?”

That’s how Jesus’ disciples reacted as the squall blew up and the waves swamped their little boat. (Boats always little when we’re afraid, isn’t it? I’ve been in 50-foot waves in a storm in the North Atlantic, in an ocean liner, the water in its pool sloshing around like someone’s martini – and I’m sure people felt that boat was small…) The reality of the storm was so great, they forgot the power of the man they had with him. "But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ (This week's gospel passage is here.)

They were outraged at his lack of concern, took his refusal to join the chorus of doom as a sign of uncaring. “How can you sleep for God’s sake?!? Don’t you even care that we’re going to die?”

Does that ring a familiar note for you? When things go really wrong, that is often my response, to pray, “How could you let this happen, God? Don’t you care?” If I’m really ticked, I get even more passive aggressive: “You know I’m only doing this to help people. Don’t you want me to help people?”

Are there situations you have faced or do currently that cause you to ask, “Lord, don’t you care?” I hope you take that question right to God. It is way better to ask than to turn away in disappointment and resignation, to allow your faith to be depleted. It’s also good to invite other people in to our crises – not so we can feed each others fear, but so we can feed each other’s faith, so we can believe for one another when our faith seems hard to find.

“Don’t you care, God?” in the face of difficulty or danger or despair is a close cousin to “How could God allow suffering,” which is probably the number one question people ask when resisting faith in God. And I am reminded, in my current cat crisis as well as by this gospel story, that God does not prevent the squalls. God does not prevent all cancer or car accidents - or wars. Oh, sometimes when we pray specifically that certain harms be avoided, they are. But generally we find ourselves praying from the midst of hurt or crisis.

Our God is not so much in the prevention business; God is about redemption. God redeems situations into which God’s life and power is invited. God renews us when our faith is flagging. God brings life out of death… which means death is still there, but it’s not the end of the story. We need to be willing to believe in a bigger story.

A friend told me this week about a conversation she’d had with her mother, who suffers from dementia. My friend was wondering why a perfect God wouldn’t have made a happier world. When she said “Why would a good God allow so much suffering?” her mother answered right away, “Oh honey, I think we are the ones who do that.”

Best answer to that question I’ve ever heard. Humans have a tremendous capacity to allow, even to inflict suffering. That's where it comes from. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can also be the agents of God’s love, coming together to heal damage, to sow hope, to banish fear. All we need is love.

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