God’s choice

Whenever there is a tragedy, such as a natural disaster or a bombing or a plane crash, we all do our best to make sense of things.  This happens in different ways for different people, depending on our beliefs and the personal experiences we bring to the table.  This is natural.  It’s a healthy part of the grieving process to make an attempt to understand how or why such things occur.

I know that we all work through things in our own ways, and I do not want to take away from whatever helps someone else find a light in the dark.  But I think we have to be careful when we do this that we aren’t trashing someone else’s grief, even unintentionally.

One thing I see so often is a number of people who offer up thanks that “God spared them” from death/disease/injury/whatever.  That God was looking out for them, and that the prayers of others kept them safe.  That they were preserved for a holy purpose, some part of God’s plan.

The difficulty here is that it’s so easy to glibly say these things.  It’s so easy for a lot of Christians to believe them, for ourselves or on behalf of others.  The problem is, there are three underlying statements that usually go unacknowledged.  If one person was spared intentionally by God, then one of three possibilities exist for those who were not spared:

1. God intentionally brought ill on a person.  God caused something to happen that would allow that person to die, be injured, or become ill.  It was God’s intent that this person should have something tragic befall him or her.

2. God allowed something to happen to a person as part of His larger plan.  He didn’t necessarily orchestrate it in the sense of making it happen, but He allowed it because that person was the fallout of His divine will.

3. God failed to answer someone else’s prayer, or ignored that person’s prayer.  God wasn’t allowing something as part of His plan, but He was either not paying attention or choosing not to listen to prayers.

I recognize that there is a possibility, perhaps, that any of those things could be true.  But what I see is often that people jump so easily to being inspired by miraculous stories, while avoiding the flip side.

I’m not here to tell anyone to stop believing in miracles.  But I think in the wake of tragedies that affect many individuals and families, we need to be very careful how we express ourselves in the aftermath.  We need to be sure that claims of “God saved my life!” don’t leave other victims’ families saying, “Wasn’t my loved one good enough for God to spare?”

A healthier response would be to thank God for the life we have, for the blessings we have, and to find out how we can serve others out of those blessings.  Don’t write elaborate blog posts detailing the miracle of how you were spared; don’t make YouTube videos expressing your gratitude that God heard your prayers; don’t share those things on social media when you come across them.

Just give thanks and give to others.


Prayer Is Not a Tool

Bertram Mackennal [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bertram Mackennal [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Forgive me for the lapse in blog posts.  My husband came home from his two-week intensive training program on Sunday night.  As he was away for our anniversary, we took yesterday as a mini-vacation together while the kids were at camp.  We were able to go out for a whole day, without anyone else in tow, for the first time since before we had children.  Today’s post won’t be long or deep, as I’m too tired to think critically about much of anything.

On Sunday, I attended a church to which we don’t belong.  We were visiting because it was a special church service for my kids’ camp.

During the time of prayer, the pastor offered a simple, sincere, gentle prayer for the victims of the Colorado shooting and their families.  He prayed that those who had died would be welcomed into the Father’s arms, and that those who lived and the families of the victims would be comforted.  It wasn’t long, elaborate, or complex.

Some things the prayer wasn’t:  It wasn’t a speculation about the eternal fate of those who had died.  It wasn’t an opportunity to remind everyone that we need to extend grace to the shooter, even as we pray for the victims.  It wasn’t an evangelistic tool, despite the greater than usual number of visiting families.  It wasn’t a fervent request that God “use” the tragedy to create more disciples.

For that, I am grateful.

It isn’t that I have any problem with extending grace and forgiveness, thinking deeply about what happens after this life, sharing our faith with others, or looking for blessings amidst trials.  Those are all good things.  But they are not good a) immediately following a significant, tragic event when people are most in need of comfort; b) without a significant amount of careful consideration and a heavy dose of humility; and c) during prayer, pretty much ever.

It’s that last one I’m most concerned with.  Prayer is not a time in which we are supposed to be working the room for Jesus.  Prayer isn’t an outreach to others.  If it is, or it becomes so, then you’re not doing it right.  Prayer is between us and God.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It’s not something that should be carefully crafted so as to maximize its outreach potential.

Using prayer, especially after something so devastating, as a method of evangelism is a lot more common that people realize.  Strangely, the same people who think that we need to craft our words to God in order to have the greatest impact are usually the same ones who believe scripted prayer is insincere.  I fail to see how delivering a sermon in a prayer is more sincere than meditating on the words found in the Book of Common Prayer.

I’d like to see Christians stop using prayer in the wake of disaster as a “witness.”  You want to reach out to others, even present the Gospel, that’s fine.  But don’t use your time of communion with God to do that.

Let’s let prayer be our words to God, not to humans.

Prayer: Refusal

Lord, here is my list of things I don’t want to accept anymore:

-People who have exploiting people who don’t

-Judgmental attitudes

-A refusal to admit the world You created is in trouble, by our hands

-Twisting history to fit a narrow worldview


I don’t want these things in my life anymore.

Prayer: When Will It Change?

Lord, I want to know when it will be different.  When will we stop…

…judging others by their job or income

…teaching children what the “right” kind of man or woman is based on external things

…blaming people for their circumstances even though we’ve never walked in their shoes

…equating being driven with being godly

…believing it’s our job to give advice to people who haven’t asked

Prayer: Help them!

Too many people are hurting today, Lord.  Comfort them and send help.  If it is I you want, then send me.  May I be a blessing to someone today, not for my glory but for yours and for the sake of someone who is in need.

Prayer: Help Me!

Lord, I need Your help today.  I simply can’t do this all by myself.  I struggle to manage my time wisely and get everything done that I need to do.  Be here with me as I learn this lesson.

Prayer: Forgiveness

Lord, I am sorry.  I am sorry for being prideful.  I’m sorry for judging others by a higher standard than I do myself.  I’m sorry for wanting my own way.

Please forgive me.