Father’s Day Reflections

Stephen MarshMormon 12 Comments

I’ve been reading a lot this week as people complain that either God is hateful and evil or they are victims of gross unfairness at the hands of God’s servants (that God, of course, should have fixed or should fix now). Much of it is in the context of doctrinal and historical discussions that bring up a lot of pain.

It is tempting to apply the discussion to every template: gay marriage, ordination of women, Blacks and the Priesthood, and the death of children — especially the last as it is Father’s Day.

In every case, what appears to be different or unfair treatment by God or his Church is interpreted to mean that either God is unfair because he acts in ways that give us each different trials or God is unfair because the Church doesn’t solve (and apologize) for the problem.

Esau had that lament about the birthright, Cain had that complaint about Abel and how God respected him. It isn’t as if pain or complaints are anything new. But pain leads to binary thinking and binary outlooks: either God is evil because we have different trials and blessings or there is something wrong because his prophets must have made mistakes.

From my experience I reject binary thinking and insist that there has to be a third way.

God is not evil because we have different paths through life nor does God send the Church astray when that happens. Aaron and his sons sharing the priesthood with only the Levites was not evil and was not proof that God had quit talking to Moses.

After all, I’ve buried three children and lost three more to miscarriages. My youngest has Tourette syndrome. Does the fact that God was so hard on my wife mean that God is evil? Is the fact that the Church has not apologized to me for what happened mean that the prophets are balking and fallen?

Should I blame God for the terrible sense of loss and failure that has accompanied many, many Father’s Days? The overwhelming sense of failure and doom in not being able to save the lives of my three daughters?

If it is possible to resolve my life, and it is, as God tells me to be patient and to trust his love, then what of the pain of others? I know from evidence based medicine and studies that facing my own death will not cause me as much trauma as burying a child did. Without being melodramatic, I know that those who have buried children have suffered as much as is humanly possible.

Not that I am not moved to tears at the pain of others. I’m left with sorrow for them. But I remain certain that there are third alternatives, a third way, that pain and sorrow can blind us to. It just hurts to much some times for us to remember that Christ has offered to let us come unto him and have our sorrows made whole, to mourn with us and to heal the broken hearted. For though it is simple, it is not easy.

Affliction, no matter what the form, does not require that God be evil or that there is no truth. I know, I’ve addressed affliction before. I know, Paul was not understating when he said that no affliction for the present time was joyous.

But no one finds healing by underestimating the love and grace of God. Is it hard? It is too hard. That, of course, is mortal life. But it is possible to find the third way, because while with man it is impossible, with God all things are possible.

Even finding peace on Father’s Day. Perhaps this year.

Note, on Tuesday I will have “God is a What? Part One” which follows up on some of the threads here, and I’ve already posted a related post on my personal blog on the scripture that says: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD

Comments 12

  1. I have often wondered at the suffering in my life. Occasionally people asked me how I can still believe in a God who allows such things to happen to me. When I point out to others that our suffering must be necessary for our salvation many have objected. However, the fact that God has not put Himself above that suffering speaks strongly to me that suffering must be necessary.

    If God asked us to endure suffering while He suffers nothing it would be one thing, but this is not the case. The suffering and sacrifice of Jesus the Christ is statement to me that suffering is part of God’s plan. He has not asked me to endure anything that He has not either endured or surpassed in suffering, therefor how can I complain?

  2. I often view it as the prime directive (sorry for the nerdy analogy, non-Trekkers). God has superior knowledge and the ability to intervene, but the greater good is that He does not intervene. He allows good and bad to happen to people who are both good and bad, even though He could alter it. It seems to me that there are a few important principles to this:
    1 – unfettered individual progress. Those who curse God and become bitter really only stall their own progress by getting stuck in a loop. I met a person like this on my mission. He came up to us and said how could we talk about Jesus and God when God was the biggest evil there was and then he said some very bad curses about God and Jesus. He said his wife and children had died and God had done nothing for him, and then he spit and walked away. We talked to others in the neighborhood, and this had all happened decades before. His life just got worse and worse, and he never got over it. Kind of an anti-Job figure.
    2 – a true testing environment. Society and our earthly test progress without Him giving us the answer sheet or just letting us all sail through it. This allows society to progress and even commit atrocities (opposition in all things), but it does test humanity. In the wake of the tsunami, there were people who profited through fraudulent charities and there were people who made great sacrifices to help others. The tragedy allowed those people’s true colors to shine through for good or bad. Maybe they would have anyway, but tragedy does polarize people.

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  4. Yes but then what when whatever way you look at things they just don’t make sense? And the only sensible answer is “God hates me”? When you find ourself in such a state of pain that God can’t reach to you. This has been MY answer. Not that He hated me. Not that He did not care but because of higher rules that He has set and with which I have aggred both before I came here and now as an adult, one of them being free agency, He just could not prevent some things to happen. As much as He hated what was done to me He was powerless and this is the hard part to admit. No matter how much He is aching for us He just can’t sometimes. He can’t just because He is actually almighty and had He mingled with my life, although this is true it would have prevented me from making some poor choices out of pain, it would have also prevented these people from being fully accountable of their actions. This would have just messed the plan and being God He just can’t afford it.
    I don’t have a problem imagining the idea of a third way. I HAD a problem with accepting it. You can tell again and again about a third way, sometimes (in my case with my way to react to my story) it makes things even worse.

    Oh and just to make sure I don’t look like a poor victime: I admit that had I been better prepared, had I understood better some of the teachings I received as a child (and taught on my mission!!!) I would probably have not made the choices I ùmade that led me to excommunication. But then would it have been really better?

  5. Stephen, given your past, I am grateful for your willingness and ability to post such a thoughtful thread on Father’s Day. There are lessons to be learned in that action alone, and I thank you for them.

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    When you find ourself in such a state of pain that God can’t reach to you …

    Ah, that is when the rest of us need to love people until they learn to love themselves enough to let God reach them.

  7. I cannot imagine a God who would take away the suffering of his children, just as I cannot imagine preventing my children from suffering any pain at all. Yes it is difficult at times to watch them make mistakes (even at the tender age of six, four, two years [and the 8 1/2 month old]), but even with my paltry measure of knowledge and wisdom I know that if I prevent them from suffering and pain, they will not learn anything.

    Without mistakes, without consequences, without a broad base of experiences we do not, cannot, learn. We do not know what things we will need to be able to draw on in the eternities, or how this life prepares us. Similar to a child who is told that they must go to school to prepare for life as an adult cannot truly imagine how vital it is to learn basic math skills, we cannot imagine what the skills we are learning here and now will be used for as an immortal being.

    Does God have it in His power to remove the suffering from our lives? Yes. Is it wise? No. Would he do so? Absolutely not. Because to do that would ruin the purpose of this earth. This is certain to me. So we suffer because he loves us. It might be possible to argue that He could at least do something to alleviate the suffering of His children, so that it is not so terrible. There is a simple answer–how do you know that He isn’t? That without constant intervention our lot might not be arbitrarily worse? It’s a specious argument in many ways–completely without evidence, but one that must be considered none the less. This is because it is entirely possible, and it many ways it is true that our ultimate fate would be much worse without the intervention of God.

    Enough for now.

  8. Stephen you’re a brave man.To a fatherless child ,your struggles appear divine.God bless you and all who sail with you.

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