Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Conflicted about God

Some Christians develop conflicted feelings about God, and some atheists taunt Christians who suffer from conflicted feelings about God. After all, if everything happens according to supreme wisdom, then it's irrational to resent God for what happens. They use that as wedge tactic. 

But is it quite that simple? Suppose I have a special needs brother. Let's say he's autistic. As a result, he gets the lion's share of the attention. My parents have to devote an inordinate amount of time to tending to his incessant needs. So I feel neglected. And sometimes I'm required to take up the slack when they're exhausted or have to concentrate on other things.

So I'm missing out on many opportunities I'd enjoy if I didn't have an autistic brother. I can't go hiking or rafting with my dad because he can't be away from my autistic brother for extended periods of time. My dad can't attend playoffs when I play football because he's needed at home to deal with the perennial crisis of my autistic brother.

It's possible for me to resent my parents, even though I know it's not their fault. It's possible for my to resent my brother, even though I know it's not his fault. There are moments when I might wish my brother was dead, but I know that's horribly wrong. He can't help himself. 

But what I really resent is the situation. Not my parents or my brother but the situation. I resent being thrust into that situation. Everyone is doing the best they can. My parents are doing the best they can. Often at their wits' ends. My autistic brother is doing the best he can. If it's frustrating for me, imagine how frustrating it is for him

By the same token, although there's a sense in which it's illogical to resent God, it can be natural to have conflicted feelings. That's not necessarily a sign of incipient or impending apostasy. The situation really is aggravating to be in. So it's not unnatural or even illogical to find it frustrating or aggravating. That's the reality. Like spiritual hives. 

If anything, apostasy can sneak in from the opposite direction. There's a well-meaning but perilous and precarious piety that clamps the lid on while internal pressure builds. Because some Christians think it's irreverent to harbor conflicted feelings about God, they suppress them and pretend they don't have them–until it finally explodes, blowing their faith apart in jagged pieces flying everywhere. 

This is one of the values in reading the Prophets and Psalmists. They are honest about their frustrations. Sometimes they have intensely conflicted feelings about God, and they aren't afraid to express themselves. That's safety value releases the internal pressure before it becomes unbearable. Healthy piety requires honesty. We can't fool God by feigning what we think we're supposed to feel when that's at odds with what, deep down, we're really feeling. 

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