Theological Quandary

When you’ve been a theologian as long as I have, it is hard not to view most encounters through that lens. I’ve run into a couple of theological quandaries a little deeper than the pre-cancer me. Some I am trying to find my way through and resolve for my sanity. Others I’m happy to leave out there in an unanswered abyss like:

The story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Was Jesus playing favorites?

However, the main one I am NOT willing to leave unresolved is one we have all experienced in some way shape or form, thanks to the expectations we place on this God who is so full of mystery. I even had a conversation with someone recently about how angry they are with God for an unanswered prayer. That experience of expecting God to bend to our every personal wish and desire has taken away their faith in God. I’ll call this an understanding of God that is, “poof there it is.”

I am grateful that my cancer was found early and has a good rate of curability. Along with most “bad stuff” comes all sorts of clichés that people perceive as comforting words.

“God only gives you what you can handle.”

“God has his reasons.”

“You are so blessed that it was found early.”

These words, which are meant to comfort, do not comfort me. They make my theological spidey sense go wild. The first two statements lead me to believe that God gave me cancer, which I do NOT believe. I DO believe God will get me through it, though. And the third statement leaves my skin crawling. Why?

Well, my theological quandary: If it is truly a God blessing that my cancer was found early, then I also have to believe that God did NOT bless the person whose cancer wasn’t caught early. Did God withhold blessing from my friend Emily who died the week of my third infusion? She never gave up on hope until the doctors couldn’t offer her any more treatments. She even sent me a prayer quilt from her church and has always been a faithful woman, surrounded by prayer. There is no part of me that believes I am MORE blessed. It’s not even what Jesus preaches.

Jesus preaches,

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Matthew 5)

When we think about blessing, we don’t think about the hungry, poor, and weeping as being blessed. But Jesus loves to turn things upside down. And I think that’s the best news ever!

Blessed are those with cancer,
Blessed are those with MS,
Blessed are those with ALS,
Blessed are those with heart disease,
Blessed are those with Alzheimer’s,
Blessed are those with COPD,
Blessed are those with cirrhosis,
Blessed are those who have had a stroke,
Blessed are those who have had a miscarriage,
for the angels in heaven and on earth dance with you.

Ya know, Jesus also preaches,
dying to self
the last going first

What a painful theology to believe that God has a hand in the suffering and blesses the prosperous. I don’t even understand how I read the same scripture as a pastor that preaches a prosperity gospel. We have a God who comes into the suffering. The weeping. The hunger. The sickness. The hate. And will not let it have the final say.

Jesus is the light in the darkness.
Jesus is the rock in the midst of the muck and mire.
Jesus is the shelter in the mist of the storm.
Jesus is the resurrection.

3 responses to “Theological Quandary”

  1. Margaret Vredeveld Avatar
    Margaret Vredeveld

    I agree with you about cliches and have experienced my own spidey senses. Many cults actively exclude people who are suffering.

    In my view your theology is excellent and your new beatitudes are keepers!!!

    💞🙏🏼😘 Margaret

  2. Bill Gallaher Avatar
    Bill Gallaher

    I am totally with you on “God has a reason for everything.”
    NO. There is no reason why children die of illness. There is no reason for the Holocaust. There is no reason He gave you cancer. God does not promise sunny skies, happy endings, silver linings or clear sailing. God promises ONLY to be the refuge in every storm, the sanctuary where pain and loss are not eliminated but shared together, and the comforter that showers the battered traveller with His grace and love. Because God suffered the same way when He handed over His son to be welcomed and then be sacrificed not for His good, but for our sake. Our lives are a collection of our experiences: good, bad, positive, negative, major, minor, crucial, superficial. Whatever of this we choose to hold fast to; wherever those choices lead us to, God is still there to welcome, shelter and love us. Take in the journey, no matter how tough, unfair and soul crushing it is. God will be there in the midst of it and out the other side of it. He does that because His love is enough. Peace and love to you Dana!

  3. Billie Plouff Avatar
    Billie Plouff

    Reading Pastor Dana, Margaret, and Bill’s insights gave me a better understanding of my own theological quandaries. I felt emotional and tearful while reading their words. Thank you all for your views ~ God is the rock and the light!

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