Today, I thought it might be fun to browse through some Christian blogs and see if I could find something interesting to write about. The Logical Christian seemed like a good place to start, and sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. Stanley Wong’s post from last week is entitled: Listen Listen to the Good News When You Hear Bad News. He begins by asking a question:
What do you do when the first words out of the mouth of the doctor going over your medical report are: “I’m afraid I don’t have great news for you.”
His initial answer is very much like mine might be. You grieve, and maybe cry. But things get a little dodgy after that.
Don’t keep replaying the bad news which the doctor had just told you in your head. Don’t keep looking at your bank statement and worrying about where to get the money. Keep listening and listening about the Good News about Christ and then speak it out. Let God move the mountain for you; you just listen, listen, believe and speak.
This is a message I heard for most of my Christian life. At the time, it made pretty good sense. Why should I worry when God’s looking out for me? Might as well just go on with my life and trust that things will work out. These days, it seems like an awful idea.
Since becoming a non-believer, I’ve come face to face with a powerful but daunting truth: Generally speaking, if something is going to get done, I’m going to have to do it. It’s a little scary at times, but it’s also exhilarating, and it has a way of… well… getting things done.
Unfortunately, the “let God deal with it” meme is extremely popular, especially among evangelicals. The degree to which people abandon their own fate varies between believers. Some feel like God still expects them to get off their duffs and do some leg work, but others genuinely believe that all they have to do is sit back and wait for the God Lottery to pay off big.
I remember a lady from about ten years ago who lost her job, mainly due to advances in technology leaving her in irrelevance. When I asked her what she was going to do, she cheerfully told me she wasn’t worried at all. God was going to provide. I asked if she was going back to school, or if she had a plan for some kind of skill training. She said she wasn’t worried. God would send a job her way that could use her (now defunct) skills.
Needless to say, two years later, she was barely employed, working low end odd jobs to pay off the essentials. She’d lost her house, and was living in a trailer. Now, do I know for sure that if she didn’t believe in God’s providence she’d have hoofed it back to school? No. But I know she blithely ignored the very real financial collapse looming in her future, and spent far more time praying about it than getting new skills.
Back in 2009, there was a case in South Carolina where a man with a broken ankle sat down in his easy chair and waited for Jesus to heal him. For eight months he blogged and texted about scriptures dealing with healing, and trusted God for his miracle. When he died, he had gained almost 300 pounds, was covered with sores, and had been soiling himself since he couldn’t get to the bathroom.
Are these extreme cases? Maybe so, maybe not. If you subscribe to the version of reality where you pray as if you believe it will work and act as if you believe it will not, then yes. They are extreme. But there are plenty of pastors out there who use mighty big words about God’s healing powers. They may not directly advocate forgoing medical treatment, but they hint so strongly around it that nobody could blame an especially devout follower for getting that message. And yes, there are plenty of churches that outright condemn medical treatment.
Returning to Stanley’s blog, here’s a quote from a prayer that inspired him:
” … and we thank you Father that even when what seems like bad things happen to us, because you have crowned this year with Your goodness, all things work together for good … for good … we will end up stronger, better, higher … thank you Father …“
Some people may say that this is simply an exhortation to keep your chin up when bad things happen. And perhaps many people take it that way. But I don’t like the “All things work together for good” meme. Yes, it can help keep us cheerful when things are going badly, but frankly, I’d rather feel bad when things are not going well. Because I don’t like feeling bad, and I tend to get off my tush and do something to make things not bad anymore.