Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Changing Conception of God

I have recently reflected upon how our grief following Micah’s death has begun to rid us of certain religious pretenses—certain misconceptions of God that, in light of all that has happened, need to be thrown out.  Our conception of how God works, and who He is, has changed by reason of Micah’s death. Before Micah died, we would have pat “Sunday school” answers whenever faced with a potential trauma.  Intellectually, I would (wrongly) take comfort in the (false) belief that God’s purpose in difficult personal situations would be to “rescue” me so as to avoid personal discomfort. 

In the intervening years since Micah’s death, I think our relationship with God was marked, in large part, by shock.  While we have depended wholly on God, we’ve also not really thought a whole lot about leaning on the same God whose kindness and mercy took our son away from us.

Now, as we emerge more and more from the “fog” of shock as part of the grieving process, we ask these questions once again.  This time, however, we can’t give the pat “Sunday school” answer any more; not only is this conception of God too superficial, but it just doesn’t work.  In speaking with other grieving parents, the result for many of us is a huge intellectual “void” in our lives. We don’t question the existence of God or even that He is involved in our lives.  It is that we cannot provide an answer to the deepest, most significant questions in our lives, a question that is at the forefront of the minds of most grieving parents I know.  The question, “why did God allow this to happen?” is often met with just silence. 

We answer it with a Job-like silence, a silence that (I pray) brings glory and honor to God.  We don’t know, and all we can do is keep trusting in Him, changing whatever previous conception we had of God that is demonstrably false.   Recently, I’ve tried to encourage myself that having a changing conception of God is a good thing.  After all, the Pharisees had a very wrong conception of God, and if the Pharisees had listened to Jesus and become His disciples, their conceptions of God would have been dramatically altered.  Job’s conceptions of God changed; certainly the friends of Job who gave him “counsel” had an altered conception of God through Job’s sufferings. 
The downside, of course, to a changing conception of God is that we can’t control God.  I can control a God (or, at least I thought I could) who works to provide me with good things when I want in the manner that I want.  For all of us humans who endure suffering, God uses this suffering in our lives to move us beyond the “pat” Sunday School answers to open up our minds to increase our understanding of our Great God, a God whose means are “beyond our tracing out.” 


  1. Corey,
    Why does God allow bad things to happen? I consider 2Pet3:9 to be a comfort. He is currently allowing bad things to happen because he wants more people to repent before he ends evil finally. This means that I will encounter evil in my life personally. And when I see that evil I understand better the reality of sin and separation and death. It saddens and repulses me and creates a righteous hatred for all that works against goodness and holiness. And it makes me love Christ more for reconciling all things to himself, for promising to make all things right and wipe away every tear and make all things new. The pain becomes a deep foundation for praise and a longing for heaven. I pray that it will become so for you.

  2. Hi Corey and Heather,
    I stumbled on your blog while doing some Easter Sunday research (a picture for the women going to Jesus' grave). My heart goes out to you in the painful journey of grief for your beautiful son Micah. What a horrific experience to endure, and live through day by day. Thank you for sharing your story.
    I strongly believe that we won't know God's answer to the question "why this tragedy happened? until we can ask him face to face. But I am convinced that his silence is a sign of his solidarity with you, it is the silence with which Jesus endured insults, beatings and his cruel death on the cross, the silence of his passion in which he showed us God's great love and compassion for us. And the promise of Easter is that things can change: it means that we can survive grief, we can re-dicover life and fun and love (as you have done judging by your posts) but with the added richness of knowing how precious every minute spent with those we love is.
    sending you blessed Easter greetings from the UK.

  3. Your conception of God, your consciousness of God has probably been changing your whole life. It is okay. Pat answers will never satisfy the void, as you are well aware. When hit with suffering and existential crises, we do need to ask questions. The "answers" may be elusive.
    Jesus from the cross: my God, my God, Why have your forsaken me...?"

  4. Job 36:15-16
    He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity. He also allured you out of distress into a broad place where there was no cramping, and what was set on your table was full of fatness.

    I often think about what we went through with Isabella and with Joseph. And it's clear that the only reason that we have them with us today is because God acted in a miraculous way to sustain them through severe and complex peril.
    So, it's easy, in a sense, to say God is GOOD. And He is. And we love that we have our kids with us today.
    But the testimony that we hope to live our lives proclaiming is that God is Good in this way:
    2 Corinthians 4:6
    For God, who said "Let Light shine out darkness" has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

    If this is the primary, and ultimate Goodness of God to us, to show us His Glory in the face of Jesus Christ, then I know that I can say God is Good, and God acted in Love towards Jody and me in regards to our Children, and that He acted in the SAME Love towards you and Heather. We know that we can say with Paul:

    "For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an Eternal Weight of Glory beyond Comparison" 2 Corinthians 4:17

    with the understanding that:

    "In your presense there is fullness of Joy; at your Right Hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11

    This is getting long... I'm sorry...
    But when people say to Jody and me that they know that God was good because Isabella and Joseph are safe and healthy, I think about you guys.
    And I don't want to acknowledge that God showed us His love and goodness by saving OUR kids, because wouldn't it follow that He didn't show YOU His love and goodness?
    I know people mean well. And I don't mean to be critical.
    But I think about you and Heather, and how you've suffered. I think about "That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, no never, no never forsake" and hope for THAT testimony for you and for us.
    "I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
    Therefore my heart is Glad, and my whole being dwells secure... FOR you will NOT abandon my soul..." Psalm 16:8-10

    We love you guys. And we miss you so much. Your infinite foundations of faith in an infinitely Good God is like bedrock for many people: especially me.
    God worked in your story, in its proximity to our stories, to establish a resolve in my heart to Glorify God for a Good that has nothing to do with avoiding turbulant outcome.
    Rather, from Psalm 119:
    "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your Word."
    "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law if your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces."
    "I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in Faithfulness you have afflicted me."