Still Struggling to Understand

 

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If you have read any of my earlier posts, such as  Vacuous Answers to Reasonable Questions – Part One,  or  10 Questions, you know that I have an ongoing struggle to understand what God is doing and make sense of it. I now have a spiritual father who has let me know that I really need to stop screwing around with understanding everything that God is doing and simply trust that He is good and always does good. Well, that’s all fine and dandy, as if I can stop being what I was created to be, which is an intolerably curious, nosy, and analytical person who loves solving puzzles and thinking about mysteries. This is why I am a top-flight mechanic. I like to tear things apart, figure out what is broken, and then – make it work!

Can’t make God work. At least not to my specifications. Which is utterly frustrating to me and a bit scary. Or more like terrifying when I consider the idea of eternal conscious torment in a place called hell.

I am working on “letting go and letting God,” as they call it, but certain things still just kind of drive me over the edge.  I hear people making statements and the red flags start popping up all over the place. I can’t help it. It is as if there is a certain trigger in my mind that goes off when touched the right way.

For instance – and this is again under the assumption taught by the Roman Catholic Church ( you know, the one that claims it is “THE Church” and all outside if it go to hell forever) of eternal torment of sinners – the appearances of Christ in dreams to Muslims in the Middle East, resulting in, from what I’ve read, millions of conversions to Christianity. My mind immediately says, “Okay. Why not appear to all Muslims like that so that this persecution and killing of Christians will stop and we can rejoice in the filling of the Kingdom of God?”  

Am I allowed to ask this question, or am I an evil person for questioning what God does and how He chooses to do it? Am I an evil person for being plagued from time to time with the doubts you are going to see me express in this piece?

What has set me off this morning is a blog by Leticia Adams. She is an incredible convert to the Catholic Church who has gone through sheer hell to come to Christ. This is what she wrote this morning as she continues to grieve and struggle through the suicide of her son:   (my commentary in bold red)

Salvation through Judas

I was taught that only God can bring good out of evil. Not that he creates evil, evil is the deterioration of the good, but God can bring good out of evil choices we each make.

No argument here. I am watching him do this in my life as I struggle with a marriage that was based on lies and for the first two years, was incredibly difficult and painful. I have come to realize that God hooked me up with a difficult woman in order to teach me to love unconditionally and to give as He gave on the Cross – in pain and self-sacrifice.

The biggest example of this is the Crucifixion. Jesus was beaten, battered, flogged, tortured and murdered for no good reason. He was executed in a brutal way as if He was the most dangerous of criminals even though He was sinless. Even if you believe the charges made against Him by those who called for His death, it did not warrant the evilness and brutality of His death. And yet, it was through that death on the Cross that we are saved.

It is through our participation in that death that we cooperate with the saving action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As we die to self – for the root of all sin is the exaltation of self over love – we become like Christ. As we participate in His death through our own dying to self – such as choosing to live with a wife who lied to you to marry you and has turned out to be a very difficult person with which to live – we become more and more like Him. This is salvation – not the legal idea of forgiveness presented by Protestantism (say this prayer and your sins are forgiven and you are on the way to heaven – guaranteed) nor the similar ideas of Roman Catholicism (say this many Rosaries on Five First Fridays and God will assure you a seat at the Beatific Vision) but entering into union with Christ by becoming like Him. We die to self as He died to self on the Cross, and we rise to glory.

What got everything going was Judas. It was Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss on the cheek in the garden after conspiring with the Pharisees to have Jesus arrested and killed. This is where the story of the Passion begins. Jesus knew Judas was going to do it but he didn’t stop it from happening. Why? Because Jesus knew that through this betrayal the salvation of man would begin. This is how He was going to save us all.

Uh huh. All but that poor schmuck, Judas, who is, according to most people who are honest about their thoughts on it, roasting in hell even now. When I read this paragraph, my thoughts started to tumble around my head again. God wills to save everyone (1 Tim. 2:4).  Yet He was, according to Roman Catholic thought, willing to use Judas and cast him aside as so much trash. Into the furnace with you, you traitor! But according to this, the salvation plan of God couldn’t have even happened without Judas and God being willing to use Him in this way and then watch him condemn himself to everlasting torment.

This sort of thing makes me think that if this is true, then the Calvinists are correct and God chooses who he will save and the rest of us – tough cookies! 

Everything about the life of Jesus is an example for us. He became man to become one of us. He wanted us to know that everything we go through, He has been through. He shares with us in our humanity and in our sufferings. When we feel alone in our own conflicts and doubts, He gets it. When we feel betrayed and like everything is crumbling, He gets it.

Does Jesus “get it?”  Has He really experienced torment going on forever and ever and ever and ever and ever without any hope of remediation or forgiveness? This is the Roman Catholic position. Once you die, no chance of repenting, no chance to see things clearly and say, “I was wrong, please forgive me.”  Just unrelenting torment of the most horrible kind. 

If this scenario of the next life is true (and God I hope it isn’t!), then we have much to fear of a God who allows us to be tempted, tricked, and then thrown into hell for believing in deceptions. As I asked in another piece, God as Monster, what kind of God does this to sentient beings? How is such behavior towards poor, wretched, sinful creatures who live in a sin-cursed and darkened world an expression of the Bible verse, “God is love.” ? This is why I pray that Patristic Universalism is true.

At this moment, that is how I feel. I feel frantic, betrayed and like the worldview that I have come to believe in is crumbling all around me. But I also feel some responsibility to act and to do the right things. I have no idea what those things are at the moment but I know that walking away is not one of them for me. I understand that others feel the opposite of that, but I feel firm in my faith.

I am glad Leticia feels firm in her faith. I have days where I feel firm in the faith and days that I am deeply tempted to chuck it all as a bad cosmic joke by a God who is more like Batman’s psychopathic nemesis, The Joker, than the human expression of complete love for mankind. But I have nowhere else to go. Where shall I go? Back to the sins that almost killed me, gave me various diseases, caused me depression and suicidal thoughts when younger? That is an idiot question. I must plod on, even when every hot breath of hell is whispering in my ear,  “You can’t trust Him.  He is not going to save you because you are too evil. He is not going to save your children, and you caused them to hate God.”  It is a hard road I walk some days. My only hope is that somehow I make it away from the fire and into the light.

Part of the reason why I feel so firm in it is that of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. In that, I have an example of how sometimes it is through betrayal and evil choices of humans, even men who are ordained as priests by Jesus Himself, that God saves us. God does not rejoice in those evil choices. Jesus said that it would have been better for Judas to never have even been born. But God can and does bring good out of all things.

Except for Judas. He’s disposable, as we all are when you get down to it.

In my own life, I have come face to face with this knowledge after the suicide of my son. I could not figure out how God could watch my son hang himself and do nothing. What I have come to realize is that allowing us to make choices that are evil (in the theological and real sense of the word, not just the hyperbolic sense of the word) is the price of giving us free will. He cannot take that freedom away from us. The only thing He can do is to bring good out of it. Which does not take away the suffering brought about by the evil choice. That is a consequence.

A consequence is one thing.  Something that teaches us a lesson, makes us more like Christ, brings us closer to God – yes, those are good, even if they are dreadfully painful as we go through them. That is not what Judas experienced. That is not what sinners experience who don’t find the truth in this lifetime. It is not consequence. It is eternal, non-stop suffering with no chance (again, according to Roman Catholic teaching) of making amends, repenting, or finding forgiveness in the next life.  Get it right here or you are toast, pal.  And it doesn’t matter if you never heard of Jesus Christ, were tricked by the devil, or anything.

I will always suffer from grief after losing my son to suicide, but the good that has come from it is that I have grown closer to God even in all my anger at Him. Also, my family has become so much closer and we rely on each other in ways that we never did before. I have also been blessed by so many people who don’t even know me but who have prayed for me and my family and Anthony. I have been loved through it which I needed because I don’t know if I have ever been loved through anything else in my life.

I am sorry that Leticia lost her son in such a cruel way. Those who commit suicide never think of the pain they will be leaving for those who love them. But unlike her, I am not going to sit down and paint a happy face on the tragedy of my life – that all my children want nothing to do with God, are headed for hell (if RCism is true) and it is all my fault. I never showed them the loving God who died for all. What I showed them was some freak deity made up in Bob Jones Fundamentalism – a dysfunctional, heretical religion which calls itself Christian but is filled with people who are judgmental of everything and everyone who is not of their camp. Why did God not send me to an Orthodox church when I was finally converted from my sins? Why not a church where my zeal and enthusiasm could be tempered with learning to love as Christ loves, rather than learning to be mean-spirited and judgmental of all others outside Fundamentalism. My children want nothing to do with Christ and in a sense, one can’t blame them. Who would want the mean-spirited, judgmental Christ of Fundamentalism (think Jack Chick tracts).  I cannot paint a happy face on this. 

I do not know what good will come from the chaos in the Church right now, but God is not gone. We will find Him in the Truth of it all. And regardless of everything else, people on every side are unified in demanding the truth to be found.

Whatever it takes for the Church to realize the days of secrecy and lying are over. Whatever it takes for the hierarchy to remember that they serve God, they are not CEOs or experts in PR. Their job is to protect the sheep.

I would hope this is true, but the cynical part of me says, “Yeah, fat chance.” The Roman Catholic Church has dealt in wrong teaching, strange ideas, and utter heresies now for 1,000 years. I don’t see things changing any time soon. In my personal opinion, when the RCC severed Herself from the Body of Christ by choosing schism and heresy (the Filioque clause of the Creed) over discussion and reconciliation, they opened the door to all kinds of bad behavior.

This is another area where my understanding is troubled. When the East and West were about to split apart in 1054 AD, why did God not go to the hierarchy of the Church and put a stop to it?  It seems instead that all the visions the RC God gives to the saints are of eternal hell fire, Luther the heretic roasting in the flames, damnation and curses, judgment, judgment, judgment, judgment. Not a hint of mercy. Not a vision at all about who was wrong in the schism? Nothing to stop erroneous teachings such as Indulgences and Purgatory.  Something is wrong here.

Whatever it takes.

Even if smug and arrogant people who don’t give one bit of care about the Gospel feel like they got a win because their hobby horse rode the fastest. It isn’t about winning at all. It is about getting down to basics so we can evangelize the world who is in desperate need of knowing they are loved.

Sometimes salvation comes begins with Judas.

Yeah. then he gets thrown in the fire and life goes on.  Have a nice eternity, Judas.

9 comments

    • Well, yes I do. And that’s because it’s my blog, and I can do what I jolly well please. If you don’t like what I write, don’t read my stuff. Fair enough?

      BTW – I’ve seen other blogs that do the same thing. Writing is very therapeutic when you are dealing with your internal problems.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love your comment! You are doing an amazing job with these posts. Keep up the good work and do not listen to nay-sayers! Life is too short to pay attention to nonsense. There is enough of that on the tv news. So jolly well keep it up!

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    • Thank you for your kind and encouraging reply.

      As I have continued with my spiritual director, I am finding great wisdom and peace in his encouragement to trust that God is good, that all He does is good and in love, and to just trust Him as my loving Father rather than to figure Him out completely (which no human being will ever do – here or eternally).

      It has brought me much peace, but I will leave this blog up nonetheless.

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  2. I can see your ambivalence. What I suggest is that you read the Scriptures without the lens of doctrine. Then, when you see “Keep the Sabbath to keep it holy”–the 4th commandment–do that. I can guarantee you that things will change and become clear for you with obedience to Sabbath, to feast days–which are our appointments with the Most High, and by cleansing your temple by avoiding things which aren’t human food (Leviticus 11).

    You see, these are what was meant by “He who has been faithful in little, receive they more.” If He can’t trust a person to keep and guard the simple things of the Creator, the ones He’s literally spelled out, then He can’t offer you more revelation of anything. This is what the Post-Constantinian state “Church”–Rome and her Protesting daughters–ignore. “Oh, but we’re under grace.” Well, they don’t understand what that even means also due to their freely tossing out the Scriptures (and I don’t consider the “New testament” as Scriptures. They are Messianic writings as the rule is not to add to or take away from the Scriptures–Deut 4:2, 12:32, Rev 21).

    When you instead throw out “the traditions of men” wherever they come from, and simply read what’s in the Word, you are able to see more and do more, see more and do more.

    Best and I hope you’ll take my advice, start keeping the 7th day–the whole day–as a Sabbath so that your turmoil must depart.

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    • I’m not sure what you mean by reading the Scriptures without the lens of doctrine. Doctrine is the defining of what the Scriptures mean. In some cases, this was so difficult in the past that the Church had to meet in council, sometimes lasting for years, to come to the truth through prayer and discussion.

      In the case of Sabbath worship, the Church – that is, the leaders of early Christianity – have already hashed this out and come to a conclusion. Since the Sabbath is a picture of the rest we have in Christ, it is a prophetic act to worship on the Sabbath, looking forward to the coming rest in Christ. But now that Christ has come, just like circumcision, that prophetic act is no longer required. We now celebrate His glorious and saving Resurrection by worship on Sunday, the day of His Resurrection.

      At first, the early believers thought that they were simply a continuation in fulfillment of Judaism, and they continued to worship like Jews. But there came a point in time when it became clear that there was a New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13) a new kingdom of God which was not of the Jewish Nation (Matthew 21: 33-46), and that there was a change in the patterns of worship, such as the way that Christ celebrated the last Passover, and by His words, changed that Passover into the first Eucharist. Circumcision became baptism in the New Covenant, the manner by which one was covenantally entered into the congregation of God.

      And Saturday became Sunday because the rest in Christ is not looked forward to, but is complete. Also, the Sabbath of Saturday was a specific day given to a specific people for a specific purpose. It was given to the Jews as part of the Old Covenant:

      Exo 31:16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.

      I hope that in looking at that verse, you can make the connection that the Sabbath was part of the Old Covenant, which is passed away. Along with the Saturday Sabbath, many particular Jewish laws, such as dietary laws, also passed with the ending of the Old Covenant. Our work is to study the Scriptures, see what the ancient leaders of the Church have said, and to learn the proper application of Scripture in the context of the New Covenant.

      I do thank you for your kindness in suggesting that Sabbath keeping might help me. May God bless you!

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      • You can think that they were done away with all day long, but they were not. Peter was keeping the dietary instructions the day of his vision which was roughly 10 YEARS after the resurrection. Why did he wait if that was done away with? That wouldn’t make sense.

        And you can also celebrate whatever you like on Sunday, but who told you that you could make it the Sabbath? That you could just do away with it? Why not the next commandment about your parents? I mean, don’t you HAVE a Father in heaven now? And the next one–murder–why single out the 4th commandment? Or maybe a little coveting would be nice? You can’t decide–is my point. There is the royal signature of “I am YHWH” on those. Neither you, nor church “fathers” (how that happens centuries after the beginning is a real kick), nor even YHWH himself can change a royal decree. So just who do you think you, your pastor, your Sunday School teacher or even the Emperor Constantine is to do it? There are NO Jewish laws: All 12 tribes were present, along with a mixed multitude of others who left with them. There are 25 instances where YHWH says “ONE LAW for the family and the stranger.” Keep on cherry-picking to your peril.

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  3. I can only attempt to give you the answers I have over a lifetime of theological study and musings.

    1. Many people try to make the Book of Acts a doctrinal book. It is not. It is a historical book and a book showing many of the struggles of transition from the Jewish faith to the new faith called “The Way.” The Apostles themselves continue to go to Temple services and observe Jewish feasts because they thought that they were a continuation of Judaism. It took several decades for the reality of the situation to become clear – i.e., that Judaism was finished and that there was no unity with it for Christianity. Peter was still learning what this new faith – The Way – meant. His vision was just one of many such learning experiences which slowly changed the Christian faith into what it was meant to become.

    Secondly, the Christian faith did not fall out of the sky all prepared and ready to go. Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed, and using that analogy, a seed must have time to grow and undergo change for it to become what it is intended to be.

    2. I gave you the verse in which God stated that the Sabbath was particularly given to the Jews as part of the Old Covenant with them. I think I am well within my rights to allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves. None of the other 9 Commandments are spoken of as having a specific reality to the Jews alone as the Sabbath observance in Exodus 31: 16. If there is such a verse which states, for instance, that the prohibition against murder in the Commandments was given exclusively as part of the Old Covenant, I would be interested in seeing it.

    As I mentioned to you, the Sabbath is one of a number of changes which were made in the Kingdom of God when Christ died, was buried, and arose. The Passover became the Eucharist. Circumcision became baptism. The day of worship and rest was changed from Saturday to Sunday. The high priesthood was abolished on earth because there is a permanent Great High Priest in heaven.

    3. You appear to share in the idea that Emperor Constantine was the one who “paganized” the Christian faith and led it down the path of idolatry and falsehood. I understand this because this was what I also believed before my conversion. Have you read any of the writings of the Early Fathers on the subject of Sunday worship or any of the other doctrines which are particularly Orthodox/Catholic in scope? Their writings show us what they learned from the Apostles. They were what convinced me that Protestantism is incorrect and ahistorical.

    4. I am not “cherry-picking.” I gave you both scriptural and historical reasons why the Sabbath is no longer the appropriate day of worship.

    5. The Church told us we could make Sunday the Sabbath. The Church is where the Law of God resides. In the Bible, the Church is called “the pillar and ground of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) and Jesus said that they who do not listen to the Church are to be treated as heathens and publicans (Matthew 18:17). Every heresy that the Christian faith has had to deal with has come from one individual thinking he found something in the Bible and creating a whole system of belief around it. Such heresies include but are not limited to: Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Arianism, Sabelianism, Gnosticism, Marcionism, Iconoclasm, etc. And in every case, the response of orthodox belief was given when the leaders of the Church, the bishops, who by ordination have within them the authority and charism given by Christ to the Apostles, met in ecumenical councils and determined the truth.

    The Church is the place where God protects His truth – not the individual.

    Again, thank you for your response. I hope you might ponder my words. Please feel free to contact me at irisheddieohara@gmail.com if you should desire further communication.

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  4. I don’t think questioning God can be fine, even good – until God tells you to stop! Remember Job. (I’ve written on how questioning God can actually be a way of declaring His goodness and your faith in His goodness. – being angry at God is another thing altogether, but being angry at a misconception of God may actually be honoring God! It is doubting or hating His Love, that He is Love, that is sinful – not doubting that something you’ve heard, or even fear, about Him is not really Him, not His Love, or hating this thing.)

    —My mind immediately says, “Okay. Why not appear to all Muslims like that so that this persecution and killing of Christians will stop and we can rejoice in the filling of the Kingdom of God?” — I strongly encourage you to seek God for an answer to this question! I could try and tell you what I know and feel, but I couldn’t really tell you, not make you understand.

    My hearts hurts for you over the pain expressed in some of your posts, especially the recent, “Does All Really Mean All?” May God lead you to confidence in Himself and may He comfort you with the knowledge of His mercy!

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