There's a service every other Thursday at our church where people give the message. Today is my day! I'm a bit nervous, but I thought I'd share my message with you.
It's a bit long, but it is supposed to be like a 10 minute sermon. It's on blaming God.
I was at a Sara Groves concert and she told us a story about Vedran Smajlović, a cellist who was part of the Sarajevo String Quartet. He was sitting at his window one day when he watched a bomb fall from the sky onto a bread line, killing 22 people.
I have to wonder if he asked where God was in that moment.
MSNBC was reporting on Haiti and the story that I remember most was a 2-year-old girl being treated for gonorrehea after being raped.
Where was God for her?
Steve and I walked through a slum in Ethiopia, where they were burning dead dogs and rubber where the children were playing and where a woman brought me into her home to show me a picture of her young son, no older than 8 years old, who had died 4 months earlier from the same disease she was dying from.
Sometimes, you just want to look to the sky and scream, 'Why?'
There are so many things that happen in this world that we just can't explain and the words of Jeremiah seem very, very far away. Jeremiah 29:11 says, 'For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' But there are days when we can't see that promise, days when loved ones die, when we lose our jobs, when we see a disaster that couldn't have been avoided. We turn to God and say, 'it's all your fault.'
We've been doing that for years. YEARS. Even Adam and Eve took to blaming God. In Genesis 12, Adam says "The woman YOU put here with me—SHE gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Does it get any more pointed then that? YOU did this. You.
We’ve perfected it over time, I think. We blame the restaurants that we’re overweight, we blame the government for the greed of banks. I think it’s more frightening when we blame things like Hurricaine Katrina on abortion, the earthquake in Haiti on the voodoo of their ancestors or the deaths of our soldiers because the United States is beginning to accept homosexuals in society.
When we look at the world and the pain we find in it, it’s easier to accept that God is angry with us, rather than a loving God who would so willingly let us suffer. But, as I was thinking about this, I came to think that maybe it’s easier to blame a loving God, because we feel that He should have been for us. Anger is what we deserve, but when He says that He loves us...and we get THIS...it’s hard to comprehend.
Ellie Wiesel's 'Night,' a book that follows Mr. Wiesel’s horror-filled years in a concentration camp, speaks so clearly to the pain we feel in this world and how we turn to God, in our inability to understand how He could love us and still bring us to this point, and just say, 'How could You?'
A pain so acute and biting, so soul-wrenching that Weisel quotes one of his fellow concentration camp members as saying 'I've got more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He's the only one who's kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.'
But I don't think God is indifferent to our suffering. And for as much as Weisel threw his anger at God, I think there was a part of him that understood the pain as well. Later on, he describes watching a 14-year-old boy being hanged from the gallows:
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
"For God's sake, where is God?"
And from within me, I heard a voice answer: "Where is He? This is where--hanging here from this gallows..."
God feels our pain. God knows our suffering. The cross reminds us of that. Jesus suffered and died for us, he felt pain, he was tempted. He felt anguish and frustration and he cried out to God, take this cup away from me! Not only did Jesus ask for the cup to be taken away, but he asked for it to be taken and knew the reason behind his pain. Jesus knew why. It’s somewhat comforting to know that even God’s son cried out, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ even though He knew it was for the best, that it was what needed to happen.
Adam and Eve blamed God because it was easier to say that God hurt us rather than look at themselves and see the evil that was within. I don’t think that God wants to be away from us. But when Adam and Eve let sin into the world, God had to walk out of the garden. In His perfection, it hurt to see imperfection take over his beautiful creation. But he couldn’t leave us alone and He never really has.
God has shown us throughout the Old and New Testaments how the bad in our lives makes us who we are, how the bad in the world, can sometimes be what saves us. He cures in a way that we can’t understand when our hearts are aching. Moses was a murderer who was driven out of the only home he’d ever known. Abraham waited for years and years and YEARS before God blessed him with what he’d always wanted. David was an adulterer. In their darkest moments, they may have felt deserted, but they grabbed on to God’s promises and refused to let go. And God wouldn’t leave them. They were His beloved. And so are we, even when we hurt.
I’ve always had a problem with that, being loved. I’ve never really loved myself. I am critical of who I am and how I look. I overanalyze whether I lied to a homeless person about having money or whether or not my butt is too big or if I should just swallow my pride and not get angry with my boss. I am not good enough for God. I guess that’s blaming God too. Less of a turning to the sky, but more of a turning to the mirror. To look at God’s creation and say that it’s just not good enough.
That’s a bit easier to understand, when we compact it into and onto ourselves. If only I had been two feet taller or 10 pounds lighter. If only I was kinder or more normal. If only. I wonder if the lepers Jesus healed ever looked at their blistered hands and feet and say, ‘God, if only...’ Jesus understood and Jesus saw past all of those worldly things, society’s disgust and pride, and sees past those worldly things in each and every one of us. Jesus knows our fear and our hurt and knows what it means to say, ‘God, if only...’ and has offered to carry that burden for us. To guide us in our faith to trust that God’s plan will always turn out all right.
Faith is not knowing that everything will be blindingly brilliant, that our lives will be beacons to those around us and that we will have those 2.5 children and a white picket fence and live happily ever after. Faith is not having all the answers. Faith is knowing that we will see pain, that we will experience unanswerable suffering, suffering that feels so heavy and unending, but that we are not suffering alone. We have never suffered alone and we never will. The cross assures us of that.
God will bring us comfort like streams in the desert and pull us to the other side through our pain in ways we would never have imagined. The cellist of Sarajevo took his cello into the crater of the bomb and played in mourning for 22 days for the people who had died in the bread line. As the shells and the bombs fell all around him, he played to honor those people and his act is credited as helping bring the atrocities of the Siege of Sarajevo to the international press. The image I see in the mirror is a little bit more beautiful each day. And the people we met in Ethiopia...I think they changed our hearts more than we could ever change theirs.
Our God is a God of love, of promises and of new beginnings, in both our dire and everyday circumstances. There will always be hurt, but we will always make it through. Because He knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future.