By Kimberly Poovey
I am currently in a season of reconstruction in my faith, following a dark and challenging season of deconstruction from which I didn’t know if I would ever emerge. More than ever before in my Jesus-loving life, the less Christ-like realities of the church and organized religion as a whole have been making themselves known to me with a harsh and blinding glare. For example, I used to love a good, meme-worthy Christian platitude:
- “But God . . .”
- “God’s got this!”
- “Have faith.”
- “There’s always a rainbow after the rain.”
- “I’m too blessed to be stressed.”
- “I’m blessed and highly favored.”
Etc. etc. etc.
They made excellent go-to answers for the realities of a very privileged life. (They also made excellent decorative bookmarks.)
Recently, I was wrestling with anxiety and uncertainty in relation to my job and income. I was feeling overwhelmed and emotional. On that stressful day, I was taking a bath and watching the rain outside the window when a gorgeous rainbow appeared across the sky. It was stunning, truly, and I was thankful to see it. I sat in my (large, hot) bathtub in my (comfortable, safe, brand new) house and stared out at the rainbow until the water cooled and my toes turned pruney.
Then, I got angry.
The level of cognitive dissonance it would take for me to believe that I am uniquely “favored” by God as a white, middle-class woman who lives in a wealthy, prosperous country and who has never gone a single day without all of my essential needs met is, frankly, nauseating. Seeing that rainbow was lovely. I do believe that beauty is a gift from God. But I can’t get behind the idea of a God who sends me a special sign of provision from my privileged spot in my soaking tub while children and their parents are separated at our southern border.
Or while one billion people have zero access to the kind of clean water in which I am currently soaking my plump, well-nourished body.
Or while young girls live in fear of being raped, assaulted, and trafficked while they go about their everyday lives.
From the perspective of a Christian platitude, yes, I am absurdly, disgustingly #blessed. But why? Why me? Why us? If we serve a God who loves humanity on a personal, individual level, we can’t embrace that this kind of wild imbalance is a part of God’s character.
During a recent hurricane, I spent an anxious twenty-four hours waiting to hear that all of my people back home in Florida were safe and accounted for. There were countless group texts, phone calls, and prayers. I’m deeply thankful to report that all of them made it through the storm safely. Was it God’s favor that kept them safe? Or was it just dumb luck and random meteorology? Were my family and friends #blessed because their roofs weren’t torn off and their cars weren’t smashed by debris?
If God loves all of his children, does he play favorites? Or does he just roll the dice when it comes to unspeakable tragedy? Or is it simply that we live in a broken world touched by sin and decay, a world imperfect and unjust because it’s not the final kingdom? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that bad things can and do happen to everyone. As most of us know all too well, tragedy doesn’t discriminate. What does this mean about the ultimate sovereignty of God? I don’t know yet. Perhaps I never will. But I will continue to wrestle with it until I’m beaten and bloodied and feel some measure of peace.
What I do know is this: a gospel that isn’t exactly the same for a poor mother living in a mud hut in Uganda and a rich, white soccer mom in a comfortable American suburb is no gospel at all.
I have come to terms with the knowledge that “health, wealth, and safety” are not the work of Jesus, but that he, too, mourns when tragedy befalls his children. A person in pain doesn’t need to hear that “the rainbow comes after the rain.” They need someone to mourn with them. To sit with them in their agony. To cook meals and clean bathrooms and drive their kids to school. Grief does not need Christian platitudes; it needs blood, sweat, and tears. Grief and pain and tragedy needs love with skin on.
Life is wildly unfair, but I believe that God is still good, and I trust that he, in some way unimaginable, can and will ultimately bring beauty from every broken thing.
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Kimberly Poovey is the founder of The Exvangelical Parent. She is a liberal misfit Enneagram 9 INFP who likes long walks on the beach, honey-habanero lattes, and Zoloft. After spending over a decade in the ministry world, she now writes and creates full time. She lives with her partner of 15 years and their 5-year-old son in the mountains of North Carolina.