Thursday, August 18, 2005

Crisis Prevention

We talked a little bit in my counselling session on Tuesday about putting a "beginning" and "end" point on our troubled times. This made me think, because, although my real trouble didn't start until about two years ago, I have been dealing with sickness for about the last 6 years. I had to put my "beginning" point at my freshman year of college. In relation to this, someone asked me on Sunday when the last time was that I felt really good. Not in relative terms of "for having a transplant, I'm feeling pretty good today!" But in terms of not being sick. Not being tired. Not having any worries of what's wrong with me. I, in fact, could not remember. I have good days and bad days, both emotional and physical, but I honestly do not remember the last time that I was not dealing with some sort of sickness or fatigue or even the faint feeling that something was wrong with me physically. It had to have been the very beginning of my freshman year of college, but I don't remember what that feels like.

Anyway, to move along, we were asked what our lives looked like before times of crisis, when things are going well. What does your life look like? Do you do the normal things of going to church, tithing, praying, reading your Bible, and being an overall "good" person? I did. And the more I think about it, the more I'm realizing that it was a sort of "bargain" I had going with God. I'll be a good person, and you hold up your end of the deal, God. Protect me. Keep me safe. Keep my family safe. As long as I don't rock the boat, everything will be fine. He owes that to me if I decide to follow Him and keep His rules. Turns out, most of the women in my counselling session said that they, too, felt as if they had some kind of unspoken bargain with Him.

Now, to move in a bit of a different direction along the same thread, how much do we really, really trust Him? How many Christians are too afraid to pray the prayer, "God, remove everything in my life that is keeping me from you." I can't do it. I'm too afraid that God will take away my husband, my parents, my little sister, my plush lifestyle, heck, even my dog. What if He wants to send me to Siberia! Rick will NEVER go for that! I don't have children, but the other women in my group do. They said that are afraid to pray that type of prayer or to get too close to God because they don't want God to hurt their children. Some may argue with me that they don't think this has anything to do with trust. I completely disagree. We (I) don't trust God enough to pray that prayer....especially after everything I have been through in the last 6 years. He scares me...and not in a good way.

Now, we've all heard of the Health and Wealth Gospel. About how dangerous that can be. About how so many thousands of people have been seriously hurt by this theology. I want to propose that even in the churches of Christ the Health and Wealth Gospel is preached. It isn't preached from the pulpit, but it's spoken quietly between members in the hallways between class and worship. It is, in fact, this "bargain" that we try to keep with Him.

How are you doing today, Bill?
Great! God is blessing my business! Money is good!

This form of preaching is heard more loudly than the Sunday sermon. It permiates our lives. When things are going great, money is good, everyone is healthy, we thank God. We thank God because He owes it to us. We're good people. We tithe. We read our Bibles and pray. God said He would protect us from sickness! God said He would protect our children if we raise them to love Him!

Good morning, Susan! How's the family?
We're doing great! None of the kids have been sick all winter!

This, in fact, is a very, very small subset of the Health and Wealth Gospel. We aren't asking God to give us millions of dollars, just to keep us comfortable. To be able to afford that new bike when little Tommy asks for it. But it is still just as painful when things go wrong.

I am personally getting to the point where, when I hear these similar conversations, I get sick at my stomach. If God is supposed to protect us from sickness if we're good to Him, why didn't He protect me? Why didn't He protect the children of some of the women in my counselling group? Why doesn't He offer the ability to live comfortably to the Christians in Africa? In Peru? In China? It angers me. I'm upset that this theology has infiltrated our churches, but I don't know how to fix it.

15 Comments:

At 7:18 PM, Blogger Debi said...

Amanda,

I know EXACTLY how you feel. I've had similar feelings and thoughts myself over the years. One thing I believe with all of my heart is that "everything happens for a reason". I know it sounds so "canned", but I believe that to those much is given, much is expected - and also that those who are stronger are tested more than those who are weaker.

I believe that everything we experience in this life is preparing us for something we'll need in the afterlife. As I said in an earlier post a week or so ago, my mom believes that our lives here on earth are preparing us for what we'll have to do in heaven. I also believe that.

Have you ever noticed anyone who seems to get all the breaks in life? Nothing bad or serious seems to happen to them? Everything just seems to fall in their laps? If you look closely, you'll probably find out that the person really isn't a 'strong' person afterall - and that any of the trials or tribulations you or I have experienced would destroy them.

So, I tend to take the mindset that the struggles I'm experiencing are happening because I am able to endure them (I'm strong enough to handle it) and it's also preparing me for something .. later on .. that's part of the bigger picture. I always remember 1 Cor 10:13 (NIV) where it says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faitful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." I believe that our struggles are, many times, a battle between good and evil. Satan is always trying to pull us away from God - but we need to stand firm, and lean on Him for strength. He even promises us that he will not allow us to be tempted (or experience/struggle with) anything beyond what we are able to bear. He gives us the strength to endure - sometimes we just need to look real hard for it.

Rest assured that God does love you and he knows what you're going through. I know it doesn't seem fair that we sometimes go through much much more than others do .. but that should be an indication that we must have a much more important/special "job" awaiting us in heaven. I like to think of it that way. It gives me 'reason' or 'justification' for going through some of the things I have.

 
At 5:24 AM, Anonymous KP said...

It angers me. I'm upset that this theology has infiltrated our churches, but I don't know how to fix it.

This blog is a good start. Many, many people read this, and by writing about the dangers of the name it and claim it theology, you can at least get people thinking. That is an excellent start, IMHO.

You continue to be in my prayers, sis!

KP

 
At 6:54 AM, Blogger Jana said...

Amanda - I don't understand why that theology has infilitrated the church either. It says in Matthew 5, plain as day: "God gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust."

I think we SHOULD thank God for our physical and material blessings. Simultaneously, we should expect hard times AND still be thankful. "...whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything." (James 1)

Don't know if I'm real kicked up about seeing my trouble as an opportunity for joy, but this scripture does give me some reassurance.

 
At 12:50 PM, Blogger Andrea said...

I have no words of wisedom to share. I simply want to thank you for being so open and honest. It helps others of us confront our own thoughts and feelings that we often pretend we don't have.

 
At 8:41 PM, Blogger CL said...

Amanda,

I have been kind of stalling in replying to your post. Not because I wasn't sure how to respond but because this issue hits so close to home that I didn't want to say so much that none of it made sense.

The health and wealth gospel is being fully preached from the pulpit in our churches, not all of them, but I would venture to say more than we might think. There is no realness left, nothing authentic about our gatherings (the term nothing is a bit extreme, but it's close) our times of meeting have become very apathetic to the real world. It's almost like our times together have become a haven for which only happy and good can be discussed, not the real issues. At times I feel like we come together bound up in our four walls and then we don't have to the get worlds dirt on us. Atleast not until tomorrow. But for this hour we are safe from thinking abot anything or one but ourselves. And I am given the right to say about myself that everything is perfect, because isn't that what you expect? For me to be perfect? There is hope. Actually, what I love about the shift that's occurring in a lot of our churches right now is that people are becoming wary of such garbage and they are beginning to seek honesty. They are tired of hearing sermons like '5 Ways to Defeat your Doubts" and want to see Jesus through real eyes, and see each other as real people with real problems. I'm like you, I'm tired of the surface community and messages filled with milk and no meat to chew on. Not that we can't be relevant but can't we do it in a way that still moves people towards changing their lives and honest authenticity that lives, eats, and breathes being more like Jesus? Great post my sister!

 
At 7:47 PM, Blogger Natalie Brooke said...

I want to comment on your blog when I have time tomorrow. For now, just wanted to say sorry about saturday and I sent you an email to explain. talk to you later.

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger Amanda said...

There are so many implications that this type of theology has on our church body. CL, I think you really hit the nail on the head when you talked about how we expect each other to be perfect. This rolls out from behind the church walls into our every day life. The most prominant way I have seen this is when I waitressed in high school. Sunday afternoon "church" crowds were our worst. Rude. Left terrible tips. Sometimes, they would forgo the monetary tip and leave a track instead. WHAT!?! I am appalled at my fellow brothers and sisters who do such things. These types of actions are what flow out of the Health and Wealth Gospel, and it turns people off. Who would want to be a Christian if that means that you're rude and think you're better than everyone else?

 
At 2:14 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Okay, I'm joining the conversation/ debate a little late, but this blog and the comments came to me while I sat in church yesterday. Thankfully, I believe that the people that comprise "my church" (I go to a large church, so I only consider a segment of the members as actually part of "my church") do not subscribe to this health and wealth gospel. I think it's because we're all caught up and praying for Jack, a 6 year old in our midst recovering from surgery for a brain tumor and going through chemo for it -- I'm pretty sure all of us agree that there's nothing Jack could have possibly done in his 6 years to tick God off so badly to go through this. Then there's the widow who has a 6 year old and 3 year old. Those kids, nor that woman, did anything to create their circumstance. But they, like Jack's family, have been the image of grace and faith through their trials. I could go on -- the 25 year old diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her first year of marriage, the teenage gymnast now paralyzed from an accident. For whatever reason, the body that worships where I do seems to be full of such trying circumstances that have given those people opportunity to show God's strength, grace and mercy again and again.

And as I understand it, the "health and wealth gospel" got really going with the series about the "Prayer of Jabez". Interesting that we would all cling to those 2 verses in 1 Chronicles when we tend to ignore the entire 42 chapters of Job. The entire book of Job is due to the fact that God knew Job would be faithful through it all. Also, especially to Amanda -- notice that when Satan REALLY got to Job and it was the hardest for him (seemingly) is when Satan attacked his health! Satan's not a moron -- he knows how to hit below the belt! And God said, "Bring it on -- I know my servant Job will still be faithful!!" (Actually, YIKES -- I believe it was God that pointed out Job to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?" Lord, I prefer no accolades like that! :-)

I do want to make one last little point -- I hope you cut some people slack who would say, "We are so blessed with a healthy family." I AM blessed with a healthy family -- I don't mean that to say that God has smiled on me more than someone with sick or disabled family members. I simply mean to say that is ONE of the ways He has smiled on me. And by looking at you and Jack and a myriad of others -- I am well aware that good health or even feeling good is not a promise that God extends to His children. If we were facing chronic illness or disability, I pray that I would be able to say, "We are so blessed that God has led us to the right doctor/ treatment/ medication for this."

*whew* I think that's all. Thanks for bringing this up, and I will do my part to abolish this health and wealth gospel!

 
At 4:02 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

Sarah,

Great post. I think you brought some things to light that maybe I didn't explain clearly enough or that people may misunderstand from my post.

It's interesting that you mention that your church has a lot of difficult "shit" going on right now. Mine does, too. We've got divorces and children who have been in accidents or have been very ill, adults who seem to have been struck with a streak of hard times and just can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. People are really hurting right now. And I don't know if it's that our churches are being hit harder than other places/churches, or if it's just that the people in our churches are more willing to talk about their pain.

And you're right. I should have stated more carefully that I did not mean to imply that everyone who thanks God for their healthy family subscribes to this theology, but I do think that it can be a sign or a symptom of it in not all, but in some cases, especially if we believe that we have a healthy family because of what we've done for God.

It's difficult for me to talk about Job. First of all, because I, in no way, think that I am any kind of modern-day Job. And because it's hard for me to fathom that God caused this, or allowed it, or however you want to look at it. Both are different, but both have huge faith implications. I'm just not sure that I'm ready to deal with that yet.

Thanks for your comments. I'm hoping that maybe we can continue this conversation a little longer. I think some great things are being brought to light here.

 
At 3:11 PM, Blogger Natalie Brooke said...

I think alot of us can join in your anger. I never wanted to be mad at God, but I went through a period where I was really upset at him. I thought, "God, I did all the things that you wanted me to. I was a good christian girl...I never did any of the bad things that my friends were doing. why did I...why do I...have to go through this? Why?"
I think for me...though I was a good person who went to church, read my Bible, prayed, went to church camp...did everything the "good christian" was supposed to do...I think God allowed me to go through all I went through for a couple of reasons.
1. I didn't trust him as much as I thought I did. I prayed, but looking back, I had doubt. I think God wanted me to use that to really have faith in Him. He wanted me to put my complete trust in Him and not hold on to any of it.
and
2. I think He wanted me to use it later on as a testimony to His faithfulness to us (in ways we may not be able to see in the struggle in the pain). Maybe his plan is far greater than I ever imagined. Becuase now...there are so many people that have gone through what i went through or what happened to me that I can minister to now...encourage...love and just be there for them in a way that i may not have been had i not gone through what i did.

I believe now that God is wanting me to use these two things for His glory. He even wants me to use my pain for His glory...everything.
It's just not always easy for me to do...not always easy for me to find his joy...his love...in the pain. But i've learned that somehow, it's alawys there.

thank you for writing about this. it's not always easy to trust in God and ask Him to remove anything that may be getting in the way of me trusting in Him more....fully relying on Him. I'm scared too...but reading your post made me think...what if when I pray that...something so amazing happens? What if my life is even better than it is now? then I think I might be selfish in thinking that. I don't know.

Thanks amanda for writing about this. Girl..I see a strength in you that I long to have. You are not afraid to ask questions...ask about God...share your faith, your believes...get on your soap box if you have to. voice your opinion...let your heart speak. that's what I see in you girl and it ministers to me so much right now.

 
At 3:37 AM, Blogger Englers said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 5:23 AM, Blogger Tammy M. said...

I am the mom of the 6 yr. old with the brain tumor, that Sarah spoke of above. I have ofcourse had trouble accepting what is going on in my life with my child, and found myself screaming at God, a chaplin at a hospital gave me this quote:

Some people came to Calcutta, and before leaving, they begged me: "Tell us something that will help us to live our lives better." And I said: "Smile at each other; smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other - it doesn't matter who it is- and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.: And then one of them asked me: "Are you married?" and I said; "Yes, and I find it difficult sometimes to smile at Jesus." And it is true, Jesus can be very demanding also, and it is at those times when he is so demanding that to give him a big smile is very beautiful.

From A Gift for God by Mother Teresa.

If Mother Teresa struggles with a smile at Jesus, (and I am not putting her on a pedastool, o.k. maybe I secretly am) Then struggling with it for me would be normal and o.k. After due time of screaming, I laid down at the feet of Jesus and fell completely in love with Him again. Why? Because He is my everything, I can not go through this struggle without Jesus guiding me, filling me with mercy and strength, and with a love that no one else can give. Do I wish God would wave his mighty hand and take a tumor from my son's brain, yes. But I know that God doesn't follow my wishes on command, it is only for me to take our days one at a time, and be the best mom, wife, friend, and lover of God I can be, and know that Jesus is waiting for my prayers and shining down His glory all over me and my family. Lastly, sorry this is so long, I would never want to give Satan the upperhand in my life and he will get his foot in the door with this situation if I am not "on my knees" with Jesus.

 
At 7:15 AM, Blogger Roxanne said...

Have you heard the song "Held" by Natalie Grant? It is a very powerful statement AGAINST the health and wealth doctrine of today. And she may very well believe in that doctrine, but the song doesn't mince words. Just because we are Christians does not for one second mean that things will ALWAYS be alright.
Here is part of the song:

"Two months is too little. They let him go. There was no sudden healing.
To think that Providence could take a child from his mother while she prays is apalling.

This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive.
This is how it feels to be loved and to know that the promise was when everything fell we'd be held."

That's just the first verse and chorus. I must admit that the first time I heard it--just the first line, I changed the station. I had just heard about a young boy with a brain tumor.I couldn't bear it. But, seeing as how the Christian radio station I listen to plays it a lot, one day I forced myself to hear the whole thing. The thought of losing one of my children for any cause or reason is overwhelming to me. But would that be the end of my world? No. I would have to keep on living. I don't know how I would do that. I don't even know how I would do things like breathe in and out. But I know that God would be there.

One of the other lines from the song is, "Who said we'd be spared from nightmares?" God certainly never did. Lots of people in the Old and New Testaments had more than their share. Lots of my friends and family undergo the same kinds of tragedies.

One of the people who posts to this website--and the one who led me here, and I have been friends for 30 years. (Makes us sound REALLY old, but we met in 1st grade). I have told her more than once that sometimes my life scares me because it is so good. I have a wonderful husband, two healthy children, a home, a car, clothes, friends, physical and spiritual families. How in the world did I get so blessed when Jack's mommy is trying to make sure he just stays alive by letting doctors pump chemo into his little body?

I don't know the answer to that. I only know that, like Paul, whatever the circumstance, I must turn to God. God "owes me" nothing. My frail, human mind sometimes can attribute my "goodness" to the blessings that he has overwhelmingly given me--but I am quickly reminded that it is only by his hand that "we live and move and have our being."

I have not, indeed, read "The Prayer of Jabez"--I also haven't seen "The Passion of the Christ." (Please do not throw rocks. I took three Bible classes from Jimmy Allen while at Harding--I have a pretty vivid idea of the cross from his descriptions.) I have read the Bible, though. In it I see God's blessings of earthly treasure on those he loved--I also see how sometimes those treasures helped those people to fail God.

I have also been blessed to be surrounded by people who do not subscribe to the "health and wealth" doctrine. It sounds nice--it's just not how God works. We can claim the promises of God, the power of the Spirit in our lives, but we must also remember that though God loves us and gives us good gifts (like we would give our children--from Matthew), his main purpose in our lives is to draw us to him, and in doing so draw others to him as well. More often than not, that means pain.

I wish wonderful health for you. I am interested in reading more of what you have to say on this Blog.

Roxanne

 
At 8:35 AM, Blogger Amanda said...

I'm very frustrated. I just sat down and wrote this very long response to your comments, and it disappeared. Forever lost in the blogosphere.

I am honored and humbled that this post, in particular, is getting so much attention from you guys. There is more that I want to write about, but I think I will leave this up a little longer. I hate to ruin a good conversation.

The idea that so many of you can relate so well to my struggles--either you are going through something similar now or you have been through something similar in your past--comforts me. It's so good to know that there are other people out there who hurt and that you guys feel free enough to talk about those struggles here.

You all give me strength and the desire to keep pushing through the muck and the mire until I come out on the other side, hopefully in a better relationship with Him.

Thank You!!

 
At 2:50 PM, Blogger Lori Ann said...

Hi Amanda~
I ran across your blog through John Mark Hicks blog. I really like your thoughts on this. I facilitate a womens support group at our church. It is mainly with women of domestic violence and abuse. I have dealt with this often.
My husband has an article on his blog http://www.blogger.com/profile/10087617 similar to what you are talking about.
I have found your thoughts interesting.
Lori

 

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