Friday, November 23, 2007

Debunking Christian Myth

I can't count the number of times I've heard people say, "God will never give you more than you can handle." Where in the world do they get this from? Fantasyland? I certainly can't find it anywhere in the Bible. I don't consider myself religious — religion is far too dogmatic for me, and besides, my karma ran over my dogma :-P However, I was brought up in a strict Christian household, so I have more than a passing familiarity with the Bible.

Here's the passage I imagine people think they are quoting:

1 Corinthians 10:13 (New International Version)

13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

So please, ladies and gentlemen, explain to me: how is grieving like temptation? I know I have heard and read of people who believe that it is sinful to grieve, as though it expresses a lack of faith in God. It is not a sentiment I share, all the more so since only non-widow/ers ever seem to say it. The Clearly Clueless.

Anyway, whether people are quoting Corinthians 10:13 or the happy-feelgood simplistic paraphrase of never getting more than we can handle, I think that neither of these quotes are appropriate to grieving. I don't know about you, but the acute phase of grieving was way more than I could handle! Or thought I could handle. I read posts on Widownet all the time from widow/ers who are going crazy with grief and literally screaming that all they want to do is join their dead loved one. They pray to be hit by vehicles or drowned or fall off a cliff, anything to ease their suffering and reunite them with their spouse. The pain and never-ending agony is unbelievable to outsiders.

Let's be clear: acute grieving is intense! And we're not talking a few days worth here — months and a few years are not uncommon. Who can stand up to this kind of assault? I couldn't, and believe me, I tried. I believe that grief smashes us to the ground and continues to beat on us so that we get the message: life is different now, and we can't go on living as we did when we were married. We have thousands of daily habits that must change or stop. It took me about 5 months before I got the message. Only then was I willing to chuck out all my plans for the future and just wallow in grief for a while. Once I had acknowledged that my old life was over, I could begin to slowly develop new habits and cautiously start to get my needs met in new, different ways.

Before I end this post, I'd like to quote a Bible passage that I feel is more appropriate to Christians generally and grievers in particular:
Hebrews 11:37-40 (New International Version)

37They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

In other words, being a Christian is not a free pass to a life without pain and suffering. In fact, many Christians will not receive all the benefits preached about on Sunday mornings. There are times when life just plain sucks, end of story.

Or, here's the crass, irreverent version, courtesy of


jessica said...

I am sure that this post is way too old for you to see my comment, but...

This one is (as the Brits say) "spot on"! Kinda funny - I have this saying posted on my cubicle at work, and it is supposedly attributed to Mother Teresa:

I know the Lord will not give me any more than I can handle, but I wish he did not trust me so much.

Obviously, I can't verify if this is the source. But I like the spin of this one, in the "but" phrase.

Like so many others, I get all kinds of advice - and always from non-widowed folks. They do NOT have a clue. Thanks again for this blog. Obviously, I am reading through some of the older posts.

Vic said...

Hi Jessica,

Oh, I read the comments all right ;-) Blogger makes it easy for me by sending me an email each time a comment is posted.

I'm glad you appreciate the blog. It is part of my giving back to the grieving community for all the help I have received. And I appreciate your comments :-) Thanks!


Anonymous said...

In reference to grieving I would like the point out that our Lord Jesus cried many times throughout his ministry expressing deep grief.
Moses' death was mourned by his people for 30 days so mourning is aknowledged and nowhere does it say this is sin.

The question is how long can one mourn before it becomes pernicious to the person? Because if we know we should be moving yet we don't, we do commit sin.

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. James 4:17

However we all experience sadness when we think back of loved ones we've lost, be it a relative, good friend, or partner. I think it's a grim reminder of the devastating effect that sin has had on the world.

I personally belief it's not healthy to afflict our souls continually because that stops us from moving on yet at the same time a healthy occasional melancholy brings temperance to our soul, maturity and makes us far more "human" and compassionate towards our fellows. After all we have had our hearts of stone replaced for hearts of flesh for a reason!

My personal experience tells me that when someone dies our deepest sorrow comes not from that which we didn't get but from that which we weren't able to give.

maxsynergy2002 at hotmail dot com

obakesan said...

Vic, I agree with you strongly on this point too.

Coincidentally I wrote my own similar but more 'terse' post on it on my blog

where I have been trying to write my own missive to dealing with my dearest Anita's death.