Same Precious Love

Dedicated to Andrea and Becky on their 11th Birthday.

I watched an interesting interview on television the other day. I actually just caught the tail end of it. It was late at night so, I gather from the hour that the news was being televised that it was one of the western affiliates, like Seattle perhaps. Never mind, that really does not matter much to this story. Anyway, the woman being interviewed was very distraught – over what – I have no idea. I suspect from the veracity of her emotion she had lost someone or something very important to her. In the interview she expresses her rage toward God and cries out with the anguish of a psalmist. “Why would God leave us now? Why did this have to happen to us? Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! O Jesus!”  

She was expressing the very basic and natural question that people of faith often ask in the midst of a crisis. Why Me? Why now? What have I done to deserve this? I say natural because of course it is indeed the first thing that most of us will feel. How often have people asked me, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The truth is that bad things happen to ALL people and good things also happen for ALL people. The mistake that we often make is rooted in a theology that assumes that God ordains all the good things that happen – we call those blessings and that God also is ‘testing’ us with all of the bad things that happen. I am not sure how we ever came to adopt such a mechanical theology, but the truth is we see it at work in the way people speak every day.

God does not ordain that bad things should happen to people. I refuse to believe that. How terrible it is a grieving mother is visited by a “Christian” who embraces her and says, “It’s all a part of God’s plan.” Really? Or how desperate when a dying man must hear a ‘friend’ say “God will not give you more than you can handle.” Truly? What kind of God is this? It is the same God oddly enough of the prosperity preachers. You have no doubt seen these purveyors of prosperity on television. If you live right, say the right prayers and do what God wants you will be ‘blessed’ with abundance. Now they will tell you that there is prosperity beyond money – but make no mistake about the basics of that theology. Whatever prosperity it is it is based on God rewarding us for our own good behaviour. This whole thing reduces God to a very Pavlovian sort of being. I remember a man I met once who kept a newspaper rolled in a bundle by one side of his chair and a bucket of dog treats on the other side. His poor dog was rewarded with a whack of the Telegram when he was out of line. A few minutes later he might get a treat for lying down and being quiet. Is that the image we have of God?

I want to go back to the woman on TV crying out to Jesus. In our moment of anguish we ought to cry out to Jesus as surely as he cried out to God the words of Psalm 22 – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But maturity of faith will bring the believer to a place where she knows that God is all that sustains her in her darkest hour. In the 15th century Julian of Norwich thought herself to be dying. She was very ill. Some suggest that she may have already lost a husband and children to the plague.

On what she thought was her deathbed she had visions which became the inspiration for  The Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love. In it she writes,

“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.” 

And therein lies the truth about God. We may feel that we have been forsaken when things do not go our way. We may in fact be angry at the God who loved us into being. God is big enough to take it. But ultimately our faith reminds us that God is not standing over us with a rolled up newspaper in one hand and a treat in the other. Life is, at times, a real bag of dog dung! When bad things happen – it is simply unfair. Life can be unfair! We may be God’s beloved, but there is no place where life does not happen to us. There is no protection from bad things happening to the very best of people. This is verified for us in scripture. See Joseph, Isaac, Moses, David, Job, Ruth, Peter, Paul, Mary the Virgin, Jesus – and this is NOT an extensive list! What is very true is the assertion that Julian of Norwich makes; “In falling and rising again we are always kept in the same precious love.”

Whatever or whomever that woman on TV lost, I know that God did not design that loss and God weeps with her. I know that she loves Jesus because she is prepared to cry out to him and express anger toward him when she needs her anger to be heard. I know that being a believer that she too will know that in falling and in rising again she will always be kept in the same precious love – a love that is promised to us in all times. In my dark hour God is beside me. In my hour of rising God is beside me.  As surely as I have cried the words of Psalm 22 when I feel forsaken, I cry those words to a God who is with me in all things and from whom I cannot flee. The Psalmist reminds us of that in Psalm 139:

Where could I go to get away from your spirit?
Where could I go to escape your presence?
If I went up to heaven, you would be there.
If I went down to the grave, you would be there too!
If I could fly on the wings of dawn,
stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean—
even there your hand would guide me;
even there your strong hand would hold me tight!
If I said, “The darkness will definitely hide me;
the light will become night around me,”
even then the darkness isn’t too dark for you!
Nighttime would shine bright as day,
because darkness is the same as light to you!

We learned this as a family when we lost our nieces Andrea and Becky.  As surely as God was with us in the nighttime of losing them, God was also present in the lagther and the joy of last weekends Funfest in their honour. Night or Day – God is there…in the falling and in the rising – Love abides.

16 thoughts on “Same Precious Love

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  1. Kevin – just as so many of your sermons came at a “timely” moment this
    blog came at a “timely” moment too.Thank you!

  2. Kevin – Thank you for this blog. It came to me, like Chris, at a ‘timely moment.’ I am proud to share this special date with Andrea and Becky. It would have b een our 55th wedding anniversary today. Thank you for reminding me of God’s love.

  3. Jurgen Moltmann, contemporary German theologian, wrote a book called “The Crucified God,” in which he contrasts the Christian account of God– a God who identifies with human suffering (pathos, and passion) and is a God who also suffers, and is crucfied. This Christian God is contrasted with the gods of the Greeks–immortal/deathless–and, hence, as St Paul says “foolishness” to the Greeks who could not accept a God who suffers, dies and rises again.

    1. “When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness. In Jesus he does not die the natural death of a finite being, but the violent death of the criminal on the cross, the death of complete abandonment by God. The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God, his Father. God does not become a religion, so that man participates in him by corresponding religious thoughts and feelings. God does not become a law, so that man participates in him through obedience to a law. God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him.” – Moltmann

  4. This blog really spoke to me. It’s something I struggle with on a daily basis. After both Ty and Jacob died we had so many people tell us “this is pat of God’s plan”, “God needed more angels”, “this was in God’s destiny for you” and the only thing that did was push me away from my faith. It made me feel like God was a vengeful, evil person and why in the world would I want to believe in a God who hurts his children? Why would I want to love God when all he did was hurt me. Everything people said to us made me feel unloved by God, made me feel attacked and punished.

    Then I read When Bad Things Happen to Good People (which I recommend to anyone going through a hard time and not understanding how God plays a role in it all) I honestly can’t remember much as I was so fresh in my grief when I read it but I do remember it making me feel better and I do remember his main message being about the fact that God created the world, he doesn’t created bad , bad happens because of the sin in his world. But that God is there to see you through the bad times and help you through those times. It is not him who created the hurt, he is creating the healing.

    After Ty and Jacob died no one mentioned this to us, no one said he was there to help us. All the kept saying was that it was in God’s plans for us and there was a reason which has really made me struggle with my faith. It is something I think about everyday and wonder because no one ever told me that God didn’t do it. In fact everyone told me he did and why would I ever want to have someone in my life who only causes pain, heartache, unbearable, suffering situations. I would never want that yet no one was there to tell me otherwise. It has lead to a get daily struggle with my faith.

    To be honest though, we have had so many incredible blessings come through the death of Ty and Jacob and a strength that I completely credit to God because I don’t know how I do it. I don’t know how I continue to get up every morning and live on. I don’t know what made my heart change and decide to try just once more. I don’t know what is giving me the strength and courage at times to make it through this pregnancy. A lot of people give me the credit but when they ask how I do it, I can’t explain it because I really don’t think it is me doing it. I think Kushner was right, God is there to help us through the bad times caused my sin. Between him and my husband I have come through a better person (and many people have said that was part of his plan, don’t even get me started on that, I wasn’t a horrible person to begin with) it has changed things in our hearts and the way we do things but if it is only because of a vengeful, hurtful God, I don’t want that in my life.

    I’m still struggling with this while concept mostly because no one was ever there to tell us, God didn’t do it, this was NOT part of his plan. I mean these were good life long Christians telling me these kinds of things and I was so new in my faith so it was hard not to listen. Constantly day after day we were told these things yet we were never told that he didn’t actually do it. That I read in a book. I don’t think people realize when they say these kinds of things that it only turns people away from God.

    Yes it is hard to explain why two precious little baby boys died, our first children, but please do not tell us it was part of God’s plan because if that really was the case, I don’t want anything to do with him. Don’t tell me he created this, it is doing nothing but pushing me further away. People need to be encouraging using examples from the bible (and not Job as one lady told me, see he creates pain but then fixes it) where God has not done anything but help in hard situations. As Christians we need to only be sending positive messages about God, even in situations we cannot explain. I know God will work in his own way as well, but it takes a lot longer for people to open their eyes and figure that out if they don’t have people giving them encouraging words on behalf of God throughout it.

    It’s been two years since Ty’s death and a year (almost) since Jacob’s and yet still no one has ever said to us, God didn’t do this but we do continue to hear that this was all a part of God’s plan. Perhaps that is why so many people struggle with faith after such tragedy. So thank you for posting something positive and relevant in regards to people who experience loss.

    1. Hi Jessica
      Thanks for your very thoughtful response to my blog.
      You are a witness to why it is so important to think about what we are saying to those suffer.
      To say that God willed your suffering is nonsense.
      Thank you for being strong enough to withstand those foolish comments and sticking with God’s community in spite of its flaws.

  5. Kevin,

    I must admit, I’m not a Christian. Not in the sense that most people think of it. My mother died when I was 12. The lack of answers drove me from the church, and from faith in God. If God could do such a horrible thing, then I found it easier to believe in nothing. Random chance is just as harsh, but to a 12 year old, at least it wasn’t malicious. I should point out that I had a number of phenomenal and caring Christians in my life including now Bishop John Chapman. It wasn’t that the philosophical underpinnings weren’t there, it’s that complex theological and philosophical arguments couldn’t and weren’t allowed to encompass the anger of a 12 year old boy.

    But inevitably we move on and anger and sadness and rage fade, and 12 year-olds grow up, and develop into adults who find that what worked for them as young men doesn’t work for them now. I have read much in the intervening quarter century since my mothers death, and I have come to peace with God.

    I do not believe in an intersesisonary God who answers all prayers. For the peace I have made, is not one that involves my wishes for they are small and human. The peace I have made is one of trust and acceptance, for I cannot know more than God. I will never know with any certainty, what or who God is. I honestly don’t believe my mind is able so vast this universe is, and such a minute part I play in it.

    But my comfort is this: Whatever God is, whatever his wishes and desires, I am but a wave, formed from the ocean of the universe, and at some time, in the near future, I like an ocean wave, will crash upon the shore, and return to the ocean. My molecules and atoms to be reused, and if God should reveal to me the meaning of it all, I will gladly accept such knowledge, and if he does not, I will choose to live with a love of all things as best I can, and find forgiveness for the other waves who in the course of they’re own rolling crash into mine. And when I reach the apex of my journey, I will do my best to accept and cherish all things I have had in my life, including those times when all I saw was loss.

  6. Kevin George, thank you for this post. This Sunday morning I knew there was a reason that I was called to read your blog on this day. For all of those that have suffered an unexplainable loss, these words and reminders of God’s love and the immensity of that love that is intertwined in loss and suffering and the power, beauty of its healing strength, still has me in a state of Awwwww…. It are these reminders and the intensity of “Big Love” that have given me the strength to rise up again and again each day after the loss of our baby boy Kai Martin, Sept 5, 2011. It is this same recent realization, awareness, (just over a year following this birth and death) that often brings me to tears. As I cry for my oh so missed son, Kai, I often find myself overwhelmed by the love that surrounds us and that is such a huge part of this equation. I am so grateful and feel so blessed, as my husband Chris and I await the birth of our second child in a month’s time. Thank you also to Jessica and to Greg for sharing, your honesty, and awareness that you were able to put into words has helped me to also understand more about myself, my faith, my grief and my healing. LOVE

    1. Hi Sarah
      How wonderful to hear from you.
      I am so glad to hear you are expecting again and i will keep you all in prayer. Please keep me posted.
      You are an incredible witness to the world.
      You and Chris have shown great strength.
      Peace be with you

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