This week I’ve heard some pretty sad stories from Christians. They shared with me that they are going through hard times (or have in the past), and then told me the audacious comments that other Christians have said to them in the middle of their struggle.
“You didn’t have enough faith.”
“If you had been in a closer relationship with God, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“You must not be praying hard enough.”
What? Really? Sheesh!
Those comments—and the intent behind them—remind me of a story involving a man who had a hardship and the question running through the minds of other believers.
“As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:1-3).
When we look for reasons why bad things happened to other people, it’s like we are asking the same question as those in Jesus’ inner circle: Who sinned?
Can I be honest? I’m not going to beat us up for that question. I think we say (or think) those things out of fear. Deep down we (falsely) hope that if we can find a reason why bad things happen, then we can take action to assure they won’t happen to us.
If a relationship ended because people didn’t pray enough, then we will just up our prayer game to avoid disaster.
If parents lost a child to heroin addiction, it’s because they weren’t paying close enough attention. We become helicopter parents in the hopes that our children will be fine.
If someone else ends up with a chronic illness, it’s because they didn’t have enough faith. If we go to church and do a devotion every day, surely God will only let good things happen to us since we’re such “good people.”
The truth is simply that in a world that is no longer perfect (the way God created it to be), bad things will happen to “good” people.
A police officer was shot in the line of duty last week, even though he seemed to have more than “enough faith.”
A not-close-enough relationship, you say? There’s a story in the Bible of a man named Job. When Satan was looking for someone to trouble, God himself suggested, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Apparently he loved God so much, and that was the exact reason he was chosen for hardship and temptation.
I’m fairly certain that Jesus “prayed hard enough”—after all, he sweat drops of blood—yet that didn’t stop him from being led to the cross.
Yes, this means that bad things will happen to you and me too. My least favorite promise of Jesus? “In this world you will have trouble.” My favorite promise of Jesus? “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Instead of asking who sinned and accusing the people around us of not praying or believing enough, we simply sit by them, hug them, and remind them that even if we don’t know what God is doing, we trust that God’s work will be displayed in their lives.
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who is sorry for all the times she has thought or made audacious comments too. She is working on keeping her mouth shut.
For more encouragement from Linda and other Time of Grace writers, sign up here to receive email notifications of new blog posts.