15 April 2015

Trivializing a Real Problem

by F.X. Turk

There was once a guy who loved his wife and served faithfully in his local church.  His wife really loved this guy, and they had a lot of kids.  This guys was the kind of guy you read about in Titus 1 who really set things in order most of the time by loving people and being informed by God's word, and everyone who knew him and his family thought that this is what God's will looked like in a Christian home.

And this guy was killed by a natural disaster, while he was spending his last moments making sure his family was safe from harm.  He spent his whole life, from a tender age, loving his wife the way Christ loved the church, and God decided to take this guy out and leave his wife husbandless and his children fatherless.

I bring it up for one reason only: I don't really want you to talk to me about whether or not you struggle with faith and doubt unless you have spent your whole life following God, and then suddenly everything you think following God looks like is blown to bits by God.  If you are the wife of the guy I described up above (or someone like her, with her experience of loss and grief in the face of faithful devotion both to God and to your fellow human beings), your reflections on faith and doubt ought to turn some heads.  If you are not, I'm wondering what you think you have to say about the subject.

Look: the book of Job is not about some guy who, after growing up in a famous pastor's house, has some uneasiness about how Christians live and whether or not God is real if Christians are not yet perfect people.  Job is about a man who spent his life serving God and loving God, and raising a family to the place where his adult children all loved God -- and then God says, effectively, "I know you love Me and not merely My gifts, so I am taking away the gifts to show Satan and the world that Faith is in Me, not in My generosity only."  It's not some version of adolescent poetry which got published by Crossway - it's about actually losing everything to God and still remembering that God is God and you are Not.

If you are writing a book about your struggle with faith and doubt, and the best you can do is tell me that sometimes you wonder if God is safe enough to protect your middle-class notions of being warm and well fed, please find something else to write about.  Please put your pen away.  Most of us resolve your issues when we are unemployed for the first time and we don't know if we are going to feed our babies next week, or when we are afraid that God will not let us have babies in our family.  Your middle-class angst about this subject does a huge disservice to actual doubt and (if I can really put my foot in it) real faith.

You should be a grown up for more than the span of the run of your favorite TV show before you try your hand at explaining adult faith to the rest of us.

There was quite a dust-up on the internet a little while ago about what I think Phil called "Heaven Tourism books."  That is: there's a real problem in Christian Media which presents itself as books ginned up by agents and marketing people about alleged visits to heaven which somehow look nothing like the place where Jesus is sitting on a throne at the right hand of God.  That sort of hucksterism is easily discovered and decried.  It's easy to call it out and say that publishers ought to be ashamed to make a buck off that sort of thing.  But let me be clear about something: this is no better. Books about the niggling little sophist quips of people who have never really suffered which come to the conclusion that they love Jesus anyway trivializes the real dry gulf between doubt and faith.  People writing those books are trivializing a real problem which grow-ups face, and are in the same category as Rachel Held Evans - diarists of their own failure to launch, authors of memoirs where there is nothing yet to remember.


Anonymous said...

This is a helpful post as I try to address my own tendency to think that asking questions about a God I don't understand is the same as asking God "Why" in the real hard times.

Have I actually had hard times? I have thought so from time to time but Job has a way of putting that into perspective.
I've never had to go about in caves and holes in the ground because the world was not worthy of me and I've never had to really ask hard questions because God didn't seem to be coming through like Scripture says He does.

A helpful reminded and course correction Frank.

Robert said...

I wonder about thus type of thing all the time...I mean, how would I really deal with losing it all? I've been laid off once, but I was young and had my family to lean upon. Other than that, I have mainly struggled with battling my own sin...so I can't really offer more to this conversation than to say that I agree with you.

Unknown said...

I know a guy that was serving his local church faithfully with his wife while beginning to raise a family with a couple of toddlers under their roof when, four years ago, his wife fell into the trappings of a genetic disorder that affected her heart and nervous system, and after a year of getting no answers from doctors on whether it could be treated properly, and having to have multiple families help raise the toddlers, they decided it was best to give their children up to a loving older couple who offered to raise them in their stead while they moved closer to his work so that they could take care of his wife.

He's said that, even three years after having done that, though the grief revealed sin he thought was long battled, and though he often questioned whether he even belonged to Christ at all, he never had doubts about Who God is, what man is, what the cross was, or if they Bible reported those things properly - in fact they made them more clear than they ever were for him, despite the doubts he had about himself.

It's that guy's story that makes me raging angry at folks in the RHE vein who contemplate the God who gave them breath and Christ who can save them from their own love affair with death and call others to do the same as though it were a holy calling - they are dealers of death who claim to be giving you life-giving water, and it costs them nothing to do it.

believr said...

Thank you for writing this. It is excellent!
I appreciate the candid revealing of your faith, and often your heart in the things you write.
I loved this piece in particular. It needs to be said and I think you said it perfectly.
Thank you.
God bless you and keep you Frank Turk.

Unknown said...

Claims like these anger me because it is based on the whole "You think you got problems?!?" concept, and it is not far removed from "stop bothering God with your little problems."

If I break my leg, the fact that other people have no legs at all does not fix my leg.

FX Turk said...

Well, given that I didn't say anything like "don't bother God with your little problems," but rather "don't pretend your doubt is worth my time," thanks for bringing it up.