At best these phrases are not very helpful. If I'm concerned about where my next meal is going to come from, giving that concern over to God doesn't seem like it will do me much good. At worst, these phrases present bad theology, and as a former pastor of mine used to say, bad theology hurts. "Everything happens for a reason," and "It's all part of God's plan," imply that God has decided whatever pain I am feeling at the moment is necessary and required. If God is love, then God would not plan to hurt people.
To be clear, if we tease some of these phrases out and really consider them, I might be able to get on board with some of them...you know, when I understand what someone really means when they say them. For example, if someone says, "Give it over to God," and they mean that it is not very helpful or productive for us to worry ourselves with things that are beyond our control, I get it--and I agree. Unfortunately most of the time these phrases are simply well-intentioned platitudes that don't ultimately hold up.
I was taking another look at last week's post, and I realized I used one of these phrases. Here's what I wrote:
I wonder if this is what Jesus meant when he said we should come to him as little children. As a church we've often taken that exchange with the disciples to mean that we should allow children in church and even encourage them. Well, that's cute. We should make sure we let Timmy come and sit on the pastor's knee during worship, no? But what if that's not it at all? What if Jesus is saying we should all become like children and run to him--fearless in the face of the unknown because, like those who took care of us before we were able, Jesus stands ready to take care of us now?
On the face of it, I'm good with that. But that's only because I know what I mean when I say, "Jesus stands ready to take care of us now." If I'm honest with myself, that's one of those phrases. Almost a throwaway really.
The question that comes immediately to my mind when I read it is, "Where?" Where exactly does Jesus stand? When is it going to happen? Because I could use some help right now! How can Jesus take care of me when I have yet to actually lay eyes on Him? I can imagine people who are in dire need wonder the same thing. Incredulous! I think that's what Lieutenant Dan is saying in this clip (watch out...there's some language toward the end):
But the thing is I do believe that Jesus stands ready to take care of us now. Like it says in the hymn, "Come, ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore; Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love, and power."
Where? Here. When? Now. How? You. And me. And the rest of a world full of people created in God's image. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that we are the body of Christ, and individually members of it. We are His hands. We are his feet. We are his heart. The body of Christ is real and present in the people we meet...and in us. Not just in church, but in the world as well. And when we are at our very best, when we embrace the Divine within us, when we truly function as the body of Christ, we collectively make good on the claim that Jesus stands ready to take care of us.
We, you and I, have the ability to experience the peace of Christ. After all, Jesus himself said he left it with us! We, you and I, have the ability to grant it to others. I mean, if Forrest Gump can do it...
Sometimes the more difficult part is accepting the peace of Christ...but that's another article for another time.