Let’s be honest. Many, many prayers are not answered. Miracles rarely happen. How we think our Creator does or doesn’t control suffering in our life makes a difference in our relationship. Many will say after a crisis “God saved my life.” When terrorists struck the Twin Towers some said “by the grace of God I was saved” when able to escape from the burning towers. Some said that God kept them from going to work on that horrific day. I don’t wish to offend those who have said this. I just want to perhaps un-offend those considering a relationship with God.
When one says “God saved my life” or “by the grace of God….” the implication is God did not save others in similar circumstances. If God saved you from a deadly illness, God did not save others of the same illness. If God allowed you to miraculously recover from some form of cancer, God did not save others from the same kind of cancer. If God kept you from going to work that morning on 911, than God did not intervene with others who ended up dying. The implication is that God is partial and does not have grace for all.
Those who claim divine intervention are not wishing to offend others. They simply want God to be honored in their life or death. But, one’s words can imply that God saves because one is a better or more moral person than others that God did not spare. Of course the book of Job teaches that one’s suffering has nothing to do with one’s goodness. Most don’t claim that God would say about them as God did Job: “….there is no one on earth life him; he is blameless and upright” (1:8).
Recently, when a Doctor got sick in a foreign country and recovered from a deadly virus one religious leader said that many were praying that God would spare this young man. When many are praying in a similar situation for another person’s life did God intentionally not spare that life? Praying doesn’t earn me more of God’s affection; God already loves us unconditionally. The truth is God placed a higher priority on freedom than control. Praying is more about communicating for support whatever may happen than manipulating for gain. A Creator can surely give and take life but God, unlike humans, does not have to control to be in control.
Understanding God does not control when we die can help in a crisis. Drunk drivers end life and not God. We can understand God allows us to make peace and not war toward death at the end of our life. Death is inevitable. We are not playing God by being proactive by helping to control one’s quality of life or pain at the end. Some who say God is in control – through their attitudes and actions – are really letting modern medicine be in control. God has given us freedom to help our loved ones die as peacefully and as comfortably as possible.
Many people may turn away from God because of their genuine misunderstandings and disappointments regarding God and prayers. Many who don’t know our God may be offended by our words which may suggest to them God is whimsical. What can we say to be less offensive? We might say in times of appreciation to God: “I was grateful to know God was by my side in this tragedy that God did not desire. I was fortunate to recover but I knew I would be made whole someday regardless.” This may more accurately describe who God really is – God never wished suffering or death in the first place.