Sunday, March 13, 2011

Testimony with a twist

It's an age-old question.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Well, if I knew the answer to that, I might be rich thousands of times over because that's how many tragedies happen to good people - every day.  We want it all to make sense.  We want it all to mean something.  We want someone to blame.

But the truth is, whether it's beyond our control or not, these things do happen.  The innocent suffer.  Babies die - by accident and sometimes, as hard as it is to imagine - by mistakes (fatal ones) made by relatives or friends - relatives or friends with varying motivations. Hard as it is to accept, the ones who DO die may just be the lucky ones.  Many children are wounded so badly inside their spirits that even as adults, they might never recover from the perfectionism or emotionlessness of their parents.

And the agony is still just as real for the relatives and friends who are to "blame" as it is for the ones who aren't.  Pain is pain.

Tragedies happen.  Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, car crashes.  It doesn't mean that God isn't good.  They just happen.  They happen to bad people AND to good people.  It doesn't make the pain of loss any less real - no matter who you are or what you believe.

People fail financially.  Abysmally.  They don't mean to - but it happens.  Things get out of control.  Debts rise.  People - smart people, people of faith - buy into the idea that in order to make money you have to spend money.  The turn-around will happen, the break-even will occur and then everything else will be gravy.  

But it doesn't happen - for one reason or another (does it matter whose fault it is?)  And they have a choice: mortgage their children's future, or declare bankruptcy.

It's a tough decision.  We chose bankruptcy.  

We know the embarrassment and shame of failure.  

We also know the horrible feeling of trusting we were in a safe place with our brothers and sisters in the Lord - only to be judged and ostracized by some of the very people who only a few weeks previous were singing in complete abandon beside us.  The judgment came from a place of faulty belief: the belief that Christians should never fail financially.  (Oh yeah, like we really set out to do that.  NOT!)  In fact - it's the "flip side" of the prosperity gospel, the 'name it and claim it' doctrine (also known as the 'blab it and grab it' idea).  The basic belief is that God wants His people to prosper just because they're His.  The prosperity people take it to the extreme: diamond rings, fancy cars, 7-figure bank accounts.  But the idea has trickled down to those who would deny subscribing to that belief - because I've heard it said that it's a "poor testimony" to fail financially. To me it's the same belief - just a matter of degree.  

I'm inclined to think that financial failure is not a poor testimony.  To be sure - it's not desirable.  But it's not a poor testimony - it's life.  

I think that it is something that God will use to help someone else who has to go through such a thing.  We understand the feelings of despair and of uselessness.  Only recently God set up a conversation with someone who was so incredibly crushed by this stigma associated with his own financial failure that he felt like - well, like dung. And through our experience he was able to see that life does go on. 

If we hadn't gone through that and been able to talk to this fellow, it's possible he could have even considered suicide.  That happens too - because of the condemnation doled out by those to whom money (i.e., having enough of it) is a sign of divine favour.  Poppycock! 

Oh, to be sure, financial tragedy like that hurts - believe me - in ways I can't fully describe.  And it matters not whether losing our shirt happens because of the greed of others or the inability to control the monster when it gets out of the bag.  But I think that when Jesus said that people would know us by our love for each other, perhaps He should have put a proviso in there - " long as they can pay their bills."  Hm? no??  Oh... 

If we have to be the means by which other people decide whether He is trustworthy - by our success at staying out of crushing debt or of nothing bad ever happening to us - then He's not much of a God is He?

If we believe that God has to rely solely on His people to uphold His reputation in the world as to whether He is good, then who do we believe is God after all - Him?  or us?

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