On Guilt, and Where it Intersects with my Faith

Rain Happens.

Rain Happens.

In my post a couple days ago, I wrote about the nagging guilt I’ve been feeling over being part of the worlds richest. To us, when we have bills we aren’t sure we can pay, and expenses out the wazoo, it certainly doesn’t seem like the title “rich” is appropriate. But the fact remains that we are privileged beyond belief, and I suspect most reading are in the same boat.

Clean water to drink? Privileged.

Food readily available? Privileged.

These things should not be privileges. They should be accessible to the whole human race, but unfortunately, for reasons that I’ll have to tackle on another day, equity is not the case in our world.

Just Keep it to Yourself?

There is another aspect of my guilt that is even more troubling than the guilt I experience for being a part of the worlds most affluent. In a nutshell, sometimes it feels like I shouldn’t bother praying, or assuming God is interested in my personal life because, really, is he? Does God really care about my petty thoughts and requests? I mean, if God is so interested in our personal lives, then where is he for all the suffering people out there with REAL problems and pain?

I feel guilty for bringing such paltry things to God when there is so much pain in the world; so few people, globally, that have their basic needs met. Unlike the guilt I talked about in my last post, that spurs me on to give, I’m not sure that this guilt is very productive.

God is Present in Pain

This leads me to question–or not so much to question, but it points out the gaping unknowables in my faith. A small part of my brain thinks that perhaps we have misinterpreted Christ’s involvement in the life of the believer. I definitely don’t subscribe to the whole Jesus is your buddy and wants to make your wildest dreams come true type of thinking. The early believers accepted suffering for the cause of Christ as a part of their calling, and Jesus himself was well acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).

As soon as that thought passes, a new one enters my mind:

How do I know that God isn’t there with those people in the midst of their suffering, their pain and heartbreak? How do I know that he isn’t interested in their personal lives? Why would I assume that because one suffers, God has neglected them? On the contrary, God is made more real through suffering.

 Suddenly, it seems daft for me to assume that because God allows pain and suffering he isn’t there, in the trenches, with the downtrodden. Even though I say it seems daft to think that way, it is also an understandable position that many people take. I remember a conversation with a coworker a couple years ago. He remarked that suffering and pain are incompatible with a loving view of God. He was a believer in God, but because of the existence of evil chose to view God as capricious and somewhat unloving. It’s interesting food for thought at times.

Though I don’t always know why, suffering and pain are somehow part of the human story. Interwoven through our lives from the time we are born, until our death. No one will be untouched by it. But in the West we are more insulated from it and thus have a harder time reconciling our faith with the question of pain.

The Big and the Small Matter

The conclusion I’ve come too, is that, even though my prayers and problems may be about little things (on the global scale), there is no thing or situation or relationship that we need to feel guilty for bringing before God. That is what prayer is all about anyway: talking to God. Even though I don’t believe in “buddy” Jesus (i.e.; Jesus exists to make me feel good and affirm me) I know that God still cares for the big and the small. I know this in the way that I can see beauty in the small things of life: a smile, a delicate flower or a sunny day. I also know this in the way that beauty can be seen through suffering—a redemptive beauty; gritty but nonetheless beautiful.  A lot of times we are too busy to notice the small ways that God shows his goodness. I know I am. I have a tendency to focus on all the ways I don’t see God in the world.

Someday, when I do have to face huge crises (that day will come for all of us), God will be there in the midst of it. And in that moment Jesus will become more real to me than ever before. Because He dwells in the valley with those that suffer—not just on the mountaintops.

 

**Upon finishing this post I feel the need to clarify a few things:

 

1.)  This post was not an attempt to tackle the extremely difficult questions on God and why evil and pain exist with an all-loving God. This topic is far too expansive to be addressed in this post and would require far more research and insight than I have given it in the brief lines above. These are simply observations on my own guilt, and thoughts that cross my mind as I pray and contemplate.

2.)  I still have many unanswered questions about God and the existence of evil (pain, suffering, etc.) I am not sure I am ready to write profoundly on the topic yet. But it is a goal of mine to educate myself more and do some soul searching so that I can someday write about this epochal topic with some clarity and wisdom.

3.)  I don’t pretend to have all the answers. If my observations on faith, life, or any other topic have helped anyone in any way, then I am happy. BUT—all of my observations come from being an ordinary person. It is never my intention to be up on a soapbox!

 

And with that I will end!