Someone stopped me in the street this morning. That person is a mother whose son has recovered from the point of near death only a fortnight ago, to such an extent that he could hold my finger and smile at me like only a toothy young toddler can. He was being pushed in his buggy, full of the joys of spring - his big brown eyes taking in the world that passed him by.
I was asked if God tested us by throwing terrible things at us, or if an accumulation of bad things happening at the same time was somehow a punishment. If ever a question needed not to be asked and answered in the street as two people passed in a hurry on the way to their planned appointments, it was this one! However, it is clear that the Lord works in mysterious ways and this seemed to be one such way.
Religious people have a funny tendency of removing chance and the possibility of a random act from life. Rather, they/we would ascribe all manner of things to God. If I have cringed once, I have cringed a million times when someone has said that there is no such thing as a coincidence - only God-incidences. If ever I felt a compelling urge to perform pugilistic dentistry it is in those very moments. It moves from the banal to the profoundly misled at times: "I was in a hurry to get to a meeting with N and God showed me a parking spot", or the deeply sad Robin Gibbism "this terminal disease is payment for the good times". If Christians are required to believe in and proclaim a puppet-master God, then I am off! If that is the God I have signed-up with, and to contort a Metallica album name, I would be the Pastor of Muppets. God does not find parking spaces for the late and neither does God cast down our babies as a punishment.
There is too a belief that spiritual dis-ease is a root cause of physical disease. Put another way, if you are sick you are probably sick (if I were paraphrasing brutally the very sincerely held views of some).
I play poker. I do it in a virtual world where I lose no real money but can enjoy the challenges it brings. Some like football, others rugby, but I like poker. I am good at poker and my virtual winnings are in the millions - but more importantly I have learned a simple immutable fact - chance. I can play on one day and lose every hand and be dealt 2s and 3s. The next time I play I might land Aces galore. Life is, whether we wish to compare it to a game of cards or not, subject to similar phenomenon. As I have said before on this blog, we are living organisms given free-will. Were we made of stone, we would be free of disease. Our planet is a living organism - and as such grants its inhabitants life through its natural processes. Were the world a solid boulder, there would be no air to breathe, and no - no earthquakes.
In my brief chat this morning, all of these things careened though my mind. Although I didn't say any of these things, I felt it important to say that sometimes we get ill and there no rules about how often or in what frequency. One year can be perfect, another covered by dense cloud and darkness. What we have to believe is that God isn't imposing these things upon us, as a test or a punishment, but that God shares these moments with us and carries us in our pain. The chance happenings of an organic free-will life affect God too, as I believe that he walks with us in all things - the best and worst of them.