Tuesday, 8 January 2013

What Does God Have To Do With This IF Hell? Pt 2

One day, my Pastor said something that caught my attention.   During his message he referenced the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner.   Kushner was a rabbi who had a child with a long-term terminal disease.  He knows grief, pain and suffering well from his personal and professional life.  The pastor had mentioned this book before, but the title turned me off.  I thought it sounded kind of presumptuous.

I decided to read it anyways.  There are not many books that I can say have changed my life.   This one did.

It validated my grief in a way that I had never allowed myself to experience  before.   It pointed out many of the hurtful things people had said to me in an effort to comfort me, some of which I had in turn said to myself.  I made a private vow to erase the phrase "everything happens for a reason" from my vocabulary.   It showed me the hollowness in these words.

(Warning, semi-spoiler alert... ) 

The book goes through principles that many people who believe in God would like to believe.

1.  God is all-powerful and causes everything that happens in the world.  
Nothing happens without His willing it. 
2.  God is just and fair, and stands for people getting what they deserve, 
so that the good prosper and the wicked are punished.  

Based on the author's explanation, he suggests that these two things can not exist together.   He argues that there is randomness in the universe, and that it is the cause of the bad things that happen to people.  He says that some people would rather convince themselves that God is cruel, or that they are sinners rather than accept randomness.

Reading this book freed me.  It allowed me to find middle ground.   It took the pressure off.  It allowed me to throw away the "everything" shoe for good.   God didn't push reset on my sister's life.   He didn't deal her that hand.  He didn't deal us this infertility.  We didn't do anything to deserve it.

This book has been marinating on my heart now for several months.  And it's kind of funny.  I'm yet again back to pondering the same question "Where's God in all of this?", but now in a much different way.  I've taken Him out of the beginning and the end of the equation.  He didn't do this to us, and He can't fix it either.  Instead, I'm trying to see how He can help get me through.

I'm certainly not there yet.  I struggle to pray and find myself wondering what there is to pray for if God can't change this anyways?   Kushner offers a chapter on what God can do? and what good is religion?    He offers partial answers to me, the explanations are not nearly as concise and coherently written as the first part of the book.

What I am left with however, is his thought that we can "turn to God, not to be judged or forgiven, not to be rewarded or punished, but to be strengthened and comforted."  My pastor says that God is the great recycler.  He can work in situations in your life that he didn't create.


Other snippets from the book: 

- "I would find it easier to believe that I experience tragedy and suffering in order to "repair" that which is faulty in my personality if there were some clear connection between the fault and the punishment.  A parent who disciplines a child for doing something wrong, but never tells them what he is being punished for is hardly a model of responsible parenthood". 

- "Can we accept the interpretation of tragedy as a test?...If God is testing us, he must know by know that many of us fail the test.  If He is only giving us the burdens we can bear, I have seen him miscalculate far too often."

-"We fasten our hopes on the idea that life in this world is not the only reality.  Somewhere beyond this life is another world where "the last shall be first".  

-"Blaming the victim is a way of reassuring ourselves that the world is not as bad a place as it may seem, and that there are good reasons for people's suffering.  It helps fortunate people believe that their good fortune is deserved, rather than being a matter of luck". 

- "If we are not free to choose evil, then we are not free to choose good either"

- "The God I believe in does not send us the problem; he gives us the strength to cope with the problem. 



  1. I am not at all religious but I do have times where I feel that the universe or karma is punishing me in some way. Like what did I do to deserve this? I am going to check out that book.
    I also hate the phrase "everything happens for a reason". And "maybe it's not meant to be" which is what my mother-in-law recently said to me.

    1. You did nothing to deserve this at all.

      When people say those things to me now I try to be gentle with them because I used to say them too.

  2. Thanks for sharing part 2. I really like the idea that god, what ever you conceive that to be, can be a source of strength and comfort during infertility! I will let this marinate for me too!

    1. Sometimes I wonder if it's like that footprints poem. That we might only realize the strength we had in the is journey, that God was walking along side us, after it is all complete.

      I don't know how else to think about it, because right now I don't feel that much comfort or strength. I feel like we are hanging on by a thread.


I'm interested in what you have to say