February 27, 2015

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Don’t blame God for the double whammies of life

Cynthia DewesSometimes, while we’re cheerfully schlepping along through life, we’re hit with the unexpected. The bad kind. Unlike some of our problems, it’s not the result of our bad decisions or those of others. If we were Muslims, we might just write it off as our fate, but since we’re not Muslims we often agonize over why this has happened, who’s to blame, and what we might do to fix it.

The worst part is that these events are so unreasonable they defy explanation, leaving us hanging for closure. Indeed, bad things do happen to good people, not to mention the bad ones. So we try to resolve our feelings by laying blame, for example. People will say to the afflicted one, “Do you blame God?” since no other culprit is available.

Unfortunately, many of these unexpected whammies are related to aging, and there’s not a whole lot we can do about that. Still, they seem unfair, as they do in the case of my friend Julia. She was my friend since kindergarten about a thousand years ago, but we kept in touch.

Julia was salutatorian of our high school class, and went on to become a librarian and the wife of another librarian. They lived quietly in St. Paul, working and raising a family. Theirs was a good life with attentive children, an active church community and kind neighbors. But things changed.

Julia’s husband developed dementia, and she became crippled and finally diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, they were living in a nursing home, their house was sold and their children gathered to help with their last days. But instead of blaming God or anyone else, Julia continued to be positive. She remained interested in everyone else, appearing cheerfully at our high school class lunch, talking about the future.

Old age isn’t the only cause of the double whammies of life. We once had a year in which one of our sons died and, later, lightning burned the roof off our house. To top it off, my husband phoned from work one day to say I’d have to come pick him up because someone had stolen the tires off his car in the plant parking lot. One of our priest friends wrote a kind message saying, “Do we have another Job here?” which is exactly how we were thinking.

Maybe we can be involved in a terrible car accident or lose our job. Maybe our child develops a life-threatening illness which is draining away all our resources and threatening the stability of the family. Maybe our marriage is strained to a breaking point. We could go on and on itemizing the terrible things that can and do hit us once in a while for no apparent reason.

Sometimes we tend to think we’re too smart or too careful or too good for bad things to happen to us. After all, we pay our bills and are kind to the wife and kids. We don’t gossip, we vote when it’s time, and we help out at church and in our community. We should get a medal.

So when bad things happen, who’s left to blame except God? Well, it never occurred to me to blame God for anything. Maybe the natural system allowed for an error, maybe non-human forces like weather or genetic possibility took over, I don’t know. All I’m certain of is that God only wills what is good, and gives us grace to get through whatever pit we’re in.
 

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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