God Needs a New Image

 

 

Reconstructing Our Images of God

 
As a clinical chaplain and grief counselor, I am often confronted with images of God that create more suffering than solace when people have experienced a traumatic loss. The question they usually ask is, “Why would a loving God let this happen?”  Or they will say, “I thought if I was a faithful Christian and pleased God, nothing bad would ever happen to me, so why did my child die? What did I do wrong?”

I tell them that the answer depends what they think God is.

If we see God as a man-in-the-sky who randomly dispenses joy or sorrow, reward or punishment,  that God is separate from us, residing somewhere out there in a place that we can never reach. We expect that god to protect us like a doting mother hen, and when protection isn’t provided, we are shocked and dismayed. That god not only fails to protect us (despite our earnest pleas and efforts to “earn” that protection through pious devotion), it places unreasonable conditions on its love. But even if we devote our lives to meeting those conditions and understanding the divine plan, there is no guarantee of protection.

Why? Because it doesn’t work that way.

understanding the divine plan

Seeing God as a protective/authoritative parent is an infantile view that separates and disempowers us. If we think that God’s love is is supposed to provide us with a conflict-free existence, we will always be disappointed. Because when that expectation is not met — and it can never be met — we end up focusing more on our feelings of anger and abandonment than on the valuable lessons these experiences were designed to teach us.

By contrast, if we see God as a connective fiber that links every action in the universe in an interdependent movement toward wholeness, then there’s no reason why this force would shield us from discomfort and conflict. Instead of wondering why bad things are allowed to happen, consider instead that there are no “good” or “bad” things in the universe, only the creations that move us forward in our evolution. We cannot judge these creations, because they are necessary in order for growth and expansion to occur. They are there to provide traction, something to push against, like a swimmer pushing off the edge of a pool.

Copyright 2014 by Terri Daniel

Excerpted from
Embracing Death: A New Look at Grief, Gratitude and God

understanding the divine plan

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Review & Commentary

  • Peter Lawson

    Dear Terri.
    You seem to suggest that ‘wholeness’ and ‘evolution’ are teleological processes inherent in a mature notion of God.
    I suggest that a mature notion of God, if you need one, posits no end of the connectedness of the univere, but rather the everlasting process of existence from creation to destruction, birth to death, being to non-being. The end of a human life is death conceived as a re-embodiement as a bag of minerals; or matter becoming energy.
    The unending process of birth to death seems to me very close to Jesus’teaching about the primacy of self-scarificing love; the holiness of connectedness.
    Suffering is denying the reality o fthe ultimate change; dying.