Bad Theology Kills- Trust
Updated: May 30, 2020
Today my little blog is getting treated to words given from a source that has continually impressed me for the past 2 years. This guest blog is brought to you by Susannah-Joy Schuilenberg; she is a practicing psychotherapist & complex trauma specialist, who is self described as having a "theology habit". (Which means she has a masters in theology.)
She fosters dogs, runs groups for people involved on all sides of domestic violence, has adopted, and goes for early morning runs even in the winter. That doesn't even start to tell you how badass this woman is.
Yeah...I get cooler just by knowing her.
So without further ado....
Bad Theology Kills Trust
‘God won’t give me more than I can handle’ …and thus, my believing friends, most of us aren’t rich.
Not what you were thinking, right?
Someone pats you on the back after you’ve shared that your wife has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and says, “You have this encouragement, God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Or, in the midst of gut-wrenching grief over the loss of your house – and pretty much all you possess – to a wildfire, you hear this same platitude from some well-meaning friend.
I’m pretty sure that this phrase is a misinterpretation or corruption of I Corinthians 10:13. Paul does write, “he [God] will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.”** From my read, Paul isn’t saying God gives these tests (in fact, it appears these tests come about because we’re tempted).
What do we actually do when life hurts and we feel the suffering IS more than we can handle? If the circumstances are from God, where do we turn? I wonder what we would think of our human fathers “gifting” us a little pain, a pinch of distress, or a cup of crushing circumstances? I don’t know about you, but I think I’d have trouble trusting my father’s intentions and maybe, eventually, his love.
We humans are in the business of meaning-making and we try to make sense of everything within the framework of what we already understand. Sometimes…well, a LOT of the time, that creates what we psych peeps call, “cognitive dissonance.”* In other words, way too often we hold opposing ideas or beliefs in our heads and don’t realize they clash.
I’m a trauma therapist with a master’s degree in theology; The intersection of theology and psychology is fascinating to me. In my professional world, I regularly work with people who struggle with ‘trauma bonds.’ That’s when an individual in relationship believes it is normal to receive hearts and flowers from one hand, and from the other, pain and humiliation.
What kind of presumptions do we have to have about God to believe that emotional distress, psychological pain, or difficult circumstances are given to us like some horrible Christmas gift we think is awful…but are still expected to be thankful for?
What’s the opposite of this perspective? What if the reality is that if we breathe, we struggle? The entire human race has this struggle in common – what does it mean when we attribute human suffering as something deliberately given to us by God? Who are the other players on the field…my own choices? Satan? The actions of others?
How do I reconcile that I believe God when tells me he loves me AND I also believe that this present, painful, stressful, life-sucking existence is given to me by that same God? No wonder Christians are strange.
What if God is actually the hero of my story …but without realizing it I’m making him the villain?
*Fancy-schmantsy phrase for ‘conflicted thinking.’
**The Message – Eugene Peterson
Resources for the thinking I hope is happening…