Do any of you remember hearing the “miracle stories” of people who normally would have been at work in the Twin Towers on 9/11 but for odd reasons hadn’t made it there by starting time–which meant they weren’t among the 3,000+ killed in the terrorist attacks and resultant collapse–which they interpreted as evidence of God’s loving care for them? Did such stories make you cringe, as they did me?
I remember when Erik, Ashleigh, and I were involved in a car+semi fender bender in 2010 which could have been fatal if Erik had turned one second earlier. Rather than feeling overwhelming gratitude to Providence or God for having spared us, I instinctively thought:
‘There is nothing special about us. No reason why WE should have survived this. I’m so relieved we weren’t hurt, but there are many families mourning today for their loved ones who’ve been killed recently on I-15 and Ironton Hill.’
(It was one of the years in which extensive road construction was happening along the Wasatch Front here in Utah–and we were hearing of several deaths a week.)
Recently an acquaintance of mine posted about a multi-car accident she realized she’d avoided by not feeling up to going to the gym. Her friends were quick to call it a tender mercy–evidence of the Lord’s gracious involvement in her life, but I had a very different response: “So glad you weren’t involved in an accident, [name withheld]. Very unfortunate that those people in the multi-car accident weren’t equally spared the complications or pain. May I gently remind people of the importance of being sensitive when wishing to declare God’s involvement in their lives– when others don’t see similar blessings . . .”
I’m realizing now I wasn’t being very sensitive myself–as those people had wanted to affirm and validate the faith of their friend. Wish I could convey, in a gentle but honest way, the pain that some feel upon hearing others’ Good News (i.e. “God loves me so much that He . . .”) when their own heartfelt pleadings and prayers of faith have produced no miracle.
The chaplain who taught my clinical pastoral education (CPE) class in 2012 mentioned on more than one occasion how hurtful it is to those who are suffering to hear others go on and on about how blessed they’ve been and how they therefore know God loves them.
How can we help those with a strong conviction of God’s hand in their life to consider using more sensitive affirmations (e.g. “I deeply trust that God loves us and will help us find a way forward, even when things don’t turn out the way we wished or hoped for . . .”) rather than equating positive outcomes in their life with God’s love for them?