Restoration

Restoration

Posted April 27, 2015:
I Was Angry With God

by Tom White.

In 2007, I was feeling stale and spoke about it to my director general. Consequently, I was assigned to our house in Robin Hoods Bay, England. My time there was very upsetting and difficult, for it was there that my anger towards God, which I had thought was over, gradually surfaced.

I had been raised a Catholic and had left the Church at the age of seventeen. About ten years later, after a series of misadventures, I returned.

As I came more and more into the Church, I began to hear a call to religious life. Now I didn’t regard this so much as abhorrent or even undesirable as just plain inconceivable.

I thought there must be some mistake. I couldn’t really believe that God had me confused with someone else, but the thought crossed my mind often in those days.

All the priests I had ever known had gotten their vocations in their youth or even in childhood and had never wanted to be anything else. I, on the other hand, had never at any time had the slightest interest in any form of religious life.

The idea that I might have a religious vocation made no sense to me, so I resisted, dragged my feet, rationalized, tried to ignore God, and went ahead with my own plans for my life.

Well, to make a long story short, a love relationship I had came to an extremely painful and humiliating end, and I interpreted this as a punishment from God for not following my vocation.

But to my mind, I had not been disobedient; I just hadn’t been able to make sense out of what God seemed to be saying to me. So God’s "punishment" seemed not only cruel but also unjust.

After much pain, I decided that I would do it God’s way; I would be obedient. After a time of searching for where to live out my religious vocation, I ended up joining Madonna House.

I threw myself into the life there. I figured I was finally doing what I was told and that my anger had gone away.

But I still had questions: how could God be so heartless, not just to me but to so many others?

I began to see God’s dealings with the human race in a very harsh light. All around me I could see the marks of sorrow, loss, bitter disappointments, weariness, disillusionment, fear, malice, folly, and so on.

I tried to tell myself that God’s plans are too wonderful for human understanding, but I could not help feeling that the brunt of these plans fell on the backs of my fellow man.

So I said in my heart, "Lord what are you doing? Where is this love, this tenderness, this help that we hear so much about? It seems as though your great eternal plans are crushing ordinary people in the here and now." Or words to that effect.

Piety and humility are offended by such questions, but I was genuinely scandalized—rightly or wrongly. And God heard my questions, understood them, and very kindly answered them.

One day, while I was in our house in England, a member of Focolare, one of the new ecclesial communities, came to visit us for a few days. She was an ordinary looking middle-aged, Chinese immigrant lady. Some time during her visit she read my heart and wrote me this little message:

"If only you allow God to let him show you the breadth, the width and height and depth of how much he loves you, succors and protects you, you will not ‘drown’ with anger and frustration on the world, how people turn out to be and the unwarranted disasters you hear and see and blame on God.

"Tom, he loves you. He holds you by both his hands on your hands. He is your Father. He wants to be your Father; much more he wants to be your brother and friend, and lover. He needs your permission to accept his love without reservation or argument."

I say that she read my heart because she had no way of knowing about my questions and anger. So it was obvious to me that her words came straight from God.

This was a major turning point for me. From that time on, my questions to God became softer, more trusting. They became more like questions and less like accusations.

I began to cultivate humility and fight my arrogance. I began to truly believe in God’s goodness and love for me and for every human person. And I began to look more deeply at the problem of human misfortune.

What of all the wars, large and small, which seem always to be with us? Well, did God invent the guns and bombs? Did he supply them? Did God pull all those triggers? No, we did, people did, people choose of their own free will to hate and kill.

God surely has no part in all this killing, so how can I blame him?

And what of the millions of people who die from starvation? But again, God has given enough food for all. The problem is really one of human greed, injustice, and indifference. How can we blame God for this? And so it went in my mind and heart.

What about natural disasters? Well, why don’t we hurry to help our neighbor instead of ignoring his need? What about disease? Again so much disease is the result of poverty, oppression, injustice, ignorance, indifference, our indifference. None of this is God’s doing.

But as the psalm says, The heavens belong to God, but the earth he has given to men (Psalm 115:16).

God really has given the earth and all that happens on earth to the human race. It is ours to make lovely—I should say lovelier—or ours to destroy. We can inflict hatred and pain or we can serve our brothers and sisters in love. We always have this choice.

We have the choice to follow God or to follow gods of our own making: It says in Psalm 81:11-12: But my people did not heed my voice and Israel would not obey. So I left them in their stubbornness of heart to follow their own designs.

 

Please note that he doesn’t say, "Israel would not obey, so I rained snakes down on them to teach them who is the boss." Rather he says: So I left them in their stubbornness of heart to follow their own designs. That is, he gave us the freedom to make choices.

Heeding God’s voice leads to peace, justice, freedom, knowledge, love. The world is in the mess that it has always been because we follow our own designs, and these invariably lead to trouble.

God isn’t heartless. He loves us and respects our freedom so much that he will never, never violate our free will even for our own good.

Finally I understood what I had seen as God’s "chastisement" of me in its proper light: in his kindness and wisdom, God had called me to a life in his particular service. But I would not obey, so he left me in the stubbornness of my heart to follow my own designs.

 

What had happened to my relationship with the woman I loved was not God’s punishment; he had simply left me to my own designs and allowed the consequences to follow. Then when my plans came to grief, he gently picked me up and led me to my proper place in his plan.

Once I understood all this, I began to experience gratitude to God, gratitude for everything.

God has given us life itself, the power to see and hear beauty and truth, the power to love and to be loved, the power to understand, the power of free will, the power of joy, purity and innocence, and if we lose them, the opportunity to regain them with his help.

And that is a poor and incomplete summation of God’s goodness to us.

The greatest gift of all, of course, is the Holy Eucharist, God’s daily invitation to join with him in his earthly life, passion, death and Resurrection. Is there a human heart anywhere big enough to contain all the gratitude that is due to Jesus for his complete surrender to death on the Cross?

When I try to think of everything that God has given me in this life, I become overwhelmed, overwhelmed and ashamed that I haven’t been more grateful to him and more generous in sharing with others the many, many gifts he has given me.

I now know that God is truly loving and that the true scope of his goodness is a topic on which mere words will forever be inadequate.

 

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