Spirituality for Today – October 2008 – Volume 13, Issue 3

What If God Should Disappoint Us?

By Rev. Msgr. Frank Wissel

A photo of a small wooden cross leaning against the foundation and side of an old wooden churchThis past week we had a Gospel reading at Mass in which a man sick with leprosy came to the Lord and said, "If you will to do so, you can cure me." This statement reduces the human problem of pain and suffering.

Multiply thousands of people caught in the grasp of some personal tragedy who have said – or at least thought – the same thing. When trouble comes and human solutions fail, most of us think of God. And our first reaction is the same as that of the leper if God were so inclined, he could solve this problem and set things right. Let's remember that the Lord said, "I do will it; be cured."

Whether we take this reported miracle literally or figuratively, we can be glad for this man's good fortune. We know well that most personal tragedies do not turn out that way.

I am sure that you and I know many people who prayed for a deliverance that that never came. Faced with a problem beyond their own solving, they sought the help of God. But the disease was not healed, the financial relief did not come, the broken relationship was not restored.

So now the next question becomes: where do we go from here? Now let us try to put ourselves in the place of those people. And many of our readers can do that rather easily. All you have to do is remember, because you have been there. Some of you may be there right now. A person is struggling with a problem and is thinking that God could solve it, if only He would. In your heart, if not on your lips, is the prayer of the leper: "If you will to do so, you can cure me, you can help me, you can lift my burden, you can solve my problem." But supposed that doesn't happen, then what? Let me put the question in its bluntest form: "What if God should disappoint us, then what?"

Some people have responded to that kind of experience by giving up their faith in God. Many people have felt that way at one time or another. It is not at all unusual for people to doubt the existence of God, or the character or care and concern of God. Let us remember that Jesus himself cried from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" If we take that question at face value, it means Jesus felt that God had failed him, had let him down at the time when he needed Him the most.

But to get rid of God, to banish him from our minds would not solve our problem. The Christian faith has never pretended to explain all the mysteries of life. It has simply offered a way of living triumphantly even in the midst of problems.

Every little child comes into this world thinking of him/herself as the center of everything. All they care about are their own personal pleasures and comfort. For that child, there are no hurts but his hurts, and there are no needs but his needs. If and when the child grows up, that child will see things differently.

In a sense, that is what you and I must do. We must keep on growing up. We must see that there are other people with tragedies equal to or greater than our own. We must understand that the primary purpose of God in this world is not to make our lives easier and more comfortable.

This certainly was the major theme of the Lord's ministry. He never expected God to take care of him in the sense of sheltering him from trouble. From the beginning, he recognized that his commitment to God would lead to suffering. Still he stayed committed. After he used the words of doubt, he always prayed, "not my will, but Yours."

Embracing suffering that comes our way, we are given the opportunity to build a rugged faith that will see us through any tragedy that life may put in our paths.