(PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY) – 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.
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Why? Because it doesn't work that way.