Colin Mercer is facing divorce, the collapse of his business, a multi-million dollar personal lawsuit, and worse. In my current work-in-progress, The Ruins, I explore his heartbreak and loss of security, identity, and faith.
He’s pretty pissed at God. But all with good reason, right? I mean: look at what his life has become. Everything he’s achieved, all his effort and sacrifices over decades, all his hopes and dreams…. Snatched away.
But why is it so many of us interpret God’s promise of ‘blessings’ to mean plentiful material goods, financial prosperity, success in our careers, healthy physical bodies, satisfaction in our life goals (whatever they may be), and the like? When those things are not realized, we feel we’re being ‘punished’, don’t we? I suspect this is more prevalent in Western culture than elsewhere in this world. But, if your life experience is similar to my own, this is primarily due to the religious dogma to which I was indoctrinated growing up: because we are Christ’s ‘chosen’, we are somehow ‘owed’ a happy, perfect life. At the very least, our faith becomes a sort of talisman or charm protecting us from the tribulations, and sometimes horrors, of life.
It’s unclear to me where such expectations originated. There is absolutely no evidence I can find in Scripture leading anyone to such an interpretation. In fact, I repeatedly find proof to the contrary. Christ Himself warned His followers how the world, in general, and all in it would be set against Believers. Our view, as supported by Scripture, is to be directed toward the blessings/rewards we are to receive on the other side of this existence. Everything in this life, according to the Apostle Paul, is to be considered a ‘trifle’.
In the meantime, in our humanity, we are keenly reminded of all the troubles afflicting us now. Why does the Lord have us suffer at all? If He is truly God, He has the power to give us everything we could ever want. And wouldn’t doing so also demonstrate to peoples of other faiths that He is the true God? Wouldn’t everyone jump on board the Christian train?
Stephen Armstrong of Verse By Verse Ministry of San Antonio contends that the Lord permits these earthly afflictions, not for the purpose of destroying us, but in order to ensure our weakness is always evident, and Christ’s strength is always visible, both to us and in us. But history, from the time of Cain, has repeatedly evinced our natural tendency to forget or dismiss from Whom all things are given. We become proud. We begin to believe we accomplished or gained this or that through our own brilliance or strength or effort.
Colin’s struggle to understand and embrace this whole concept is a mirror of my own challenges in accepting the way my life has been going. His story isn’t finished yet, so we’ll see how well he (and I) succeed.