Thursday, October 05, 2006

Angry at God

Someone has asked me (privately) why I am angry at God. I get angry at God from time to time and for various reasons but, at the moment, its very specific.

WARNING: This is a very depressing post. If you are looking for light entertainment, you may want to leave now. I just need to get this off my chest, and then normal service will resume as soon as possible.

I have a friend who I will call Judy here. She has been through a hell of a lot. When she was only 18 years old, she married a man who was never much good. He was one of those hopeless young men who just can't seem to get their act together and don't really even try. Who can't find and stay in work, but are no use around the house. Who can't be entrusted with any responsibility because they always let you down. Who, despite the fact that they have three kids and virtually no income, sit around all day smoking dope. And whose behaviour is often erratic and pointlessly destructive. Her parents, despairing of how she was living and wanting to help, gave them a house to live in. He went into a rage one day and destroyed it.

She left him, but he kept swearing he'd change. He also said he'd kill himself if she didn't come back. She was worried about him. So she kept going back and then leaving again a few months later when nothing changed.

Then he was in a drink driving accident and his brain was injured. Judy nursed him but, as his condition improved, it became apparent that he had lost all control of himself. He was violent. One day, he threw their youngest child across the room. She realized that she was sacrificing her life to help him grow stronger, and now he was stronger to the point that he was a danger to her and the kids. She left again.

And one day, as she was driving in to work, she heard a commotion. A man had thrown himself from the window of a tall building and onto the pavement. It was him. He had killed himself, deliberately choosing the time and place so that she would encounter what he had done on her way to work and in order to cause her the maximum possible anguish and guilt.

Anyway, Judy has raised her three children alone since then as a young widow. The kids have had a number of issues, most of which are traceable to this traumatic background. But they are a surprisingly cheerful family, on the whole, very intelligent and lively and artistic. And she has battled on, getting her degree and a job and raising them alone on very little money. She works like a serf, that woman. And everything that love and relentless hard work can achieve, she has achieved.

I find her remarkable. She is quiet, so people don't always notice or appreciate her. But when you get to know her, she is so kind and interesting and wise. She is my closest friend. We are honorary members of each others' family, meeting up regularly and sharing holidays together. She has given me some very good advice at crucial moments of my life. And I respect and admire her more than I can say.

So, she is finally at the point in her life where the kids are growing up. She has had a long term dream of becoming a writer and living on a country property. Needless to say, there is no chance of that while she is supporting the kids. But we have talked many times about all the wonderful things she will be able to do in just a few years time. About how finally, for the first time since she was 18 years old, she has the opportunity to get a life that is not all about other people.

And now her oldest child, Rachel, has been diagnosed with Huntington's Disease. This is a horrible disease that causes cell death in parts of the brain. It is genetic. Symptoms include physical problems like loss of coordination and control over the body, mental problems like loss of concentration and memory, and emotional problems like depression, anxiety, mood swings, aggression and hypersexuality. Essentially, it slowly kills the person's ability to walk, talk, think and reason. Ultimately, they cannot look after themselves and are completely dependent on being cared for. They usually die from complications like choking or heart failure. There is no effective treatment and no cure.

And Rachel is such a lovely girl. She had some problems a few years ago, but she has turned out so beautifully. So intelligent, so poised, so thoughtful, rather serious for her age but also great fun. She is only 18 years old and her whole life should be ahead of her. I look at her and I just can't believe it. I don't want to believe it. I can hardly bear to think of that lovely girl with her dying brain.

And I can hardly bear to think of Judy's pain. In knowing that this is going to happen, that this is inevitable, that her beloved child will have to go through this. And seeing her own future as a carer for her child, just going on and on, the sacrifices endless. And the other two children haven't been tested yet.

So that is why I am angry at God at the moment.

People give all kinds of answers to the problem of suffering, of the terrible things that happen in the world. Some of the answers from people who believe in God are thoughtful and slightly consoling. A lot of them are so glib that they are an insult to the person who is suffering and to anyone who loves that person.

The problem for me in all this is not so much an intellectual or theological one. It is emotional. When terrible things happen to you or to people you love, there is a kind of despair that can grip you. Some loss of the illusion that the universe is in any sense a friendly and just place and that good people and decent behaviour like Judy's will be rewarded. We rely on those kinds of illusions. Even when bad things happen, we have some kind of optimism and faith that we will get through them and will be alright in the end.

But sometimes we are brought up hard against the knowledge that we may not be alright. That the universe can just decide to quash us like an insect and sometimes there is nothing we can do.

At times like that, it seems impossible to believe in the Christian idea of a loving God who is interested in us and has the power to change our circumstances but chooses not to do so. A belief in such a God seems naive and foolish and only possible for people who are not being squashed at the moment. Smug people who still have their illusions intact. At times like that, the universe seems indifferent, arbitrary and even mindlessly cruel. It feels like either God doesn't exist or that he has a hell of a lot to answer for.

No wonder Judy is an atheist.


Blogger oldbear said...

As alapsed/sometimes struggling Christian, I pretty much agree with all you said there Emily!

One thing to argue for the theology of free will as an abstraction, quite another to see good people keep getting kicked in the teeth by life. WTF is THAT for?

I got no comment on this at all except to try to give support to you so you can support her.

And I TOTALLY agree with you that the glib condolences from the "faithful" ARE damn insulting and meaningless at times like this.

Sorry Lady, Sorry.

5:07 PM  
Blogger LePhare said...

It's the hand we are dealt. It's no use blaming anyone or anything for what's happening. I watch my wife die a little each week, but you master the practical things that you have to do to get through the day.

Be supportive to your friend, she will need it, and you will also gain a great deal of satisfaction from being able to help, even if it only in the smallest way.

5:20 PM  
Blogger shattered said...

I bet she is a person that does not complain or condemn, but just accepts what hand she is dealt.

It is people like your friend Judy that will never see themselves as remarkable or deserving of any of the real treasures that come her way.

She is truly a blessed soul for getting where she has and raising her children in the circumstances she has found herself in.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Cat said...

I don't have anything really to add. I just wanted to let you know I appreciated your post.

8:02 PM  
Blogger flutterby said...


Emily, you write with such candor and transparency. I admire you for being able to do so with grace.

Certainly life isn't Fair. But I can't help but hope that it's Just. And that in the end, the one who copes with much is somehow granted extra strength, grace, fidelity and hope in the midst of their trials.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Digger Jones said...

Why is water wet?

Because it is water! It is what it is. It is the nature of it.

Humans suffer because we are who we are. No other creature on earth suffers as much, or as often or as deeply as human beings. We cry, we mourn, we languish, we moan and groan under the weight of our respective yokes. We bitch, piss, complain and resent. We shake our fist at God about our circumstances. Or we shake our fist at God for someone elses circumstances. We don't have things we need or don't want what we have.

Earth is a place of suffering, plain and simple. No one who lives on this mudball will escape it. Even so, we cling to it. Death releases us from that bondage of suffering and yet we curse that as well.

God created a place for us all that is free of suffering.

Tell me, how would you ever know compassion and sympathy unless there was suffering? You have a tremendous gift for caring and compassion, Emily. You can share and give meaningful comfort only because you know something of suffering yourself. Through suffering, God has turned out a kinder, gentler, more caring and loving person; you. Outside of suffering, there is no meaningful spiritual growth. None.

I don't claim to know all the details, and am sure my puny brain couldn't handle all of them. Faith allows me to keep going, keep struggling and yes, to keep suffering. I don't like suffering, either my own or anyone elses. But there it is, all the same. We can lament the life we could have had, or grieve for the life that we have had or try to find the joy in today.

Jesus said there were going to be a lot of problems in this life. He never promised us it would be easy this side of Heaven. He did say He would be with us, though. And we can be there for each other.

If you try to get up in God's business, you are asking for trouble and even more suffering; running the universe is a big job! No wonder you're depressed!

Use the gifts God has given you to comfort your friend. It's okay to be angry at God. That's a gift unto itself!


11:05 PM  
Blogger flutterby said...

Bravo, Digger.

Well said.

9:12 AM  
Blogger trueself said...

Yeah, what Digger said.

I wish I were half as eloquent as the bloggers that I read regularly.

10:43 AM  
Blogger FTN said...

Well, I'll also echo much of what Digger wrote. A lot of stuff on this earth really sucks. And some anger and doubt are probably inevitable in the midst of all that suffering. As Digger said, you sound as if you really have a gift of compassion.

I know a Christian couple that have young children. When the boy was 4 years old, he developed horrible seizures and within a few months, this previously healthy boy lost the ability to walk or talk. For years, he was in a wheelchair and continued to have seizures. Doctors never knew exactly what the problem was. The mother and father spent so much time in different cities, in hospitals, with him. We as a church prayed for the boy's healing for years and years. We cried with the family over this boy's health.

And he died last year. At 8 years old, a young boy who never got well. It was awful.

Do I understand it? No. Not at all. Does the family blame God? No, I don't think they do. They seem as strong and courageous as ever, and it seems as if they've grown closer to God in those years.

What Digger said is true. We live in a fallen world where there is pain and suffering. But it's temporary. It's just a blink of an eye compared to eternity.

I know that doesn't ease the suffering of your friend. It's good that she has you to lean on in those times.

12:31 PM  
Blogger starrynite said...

*hugs* to you and Judy.

There's not much more I can say, but I'm thinking of you and Judy's family.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

Hi Emily.

Sorry I'm so late in commenting here - I didn't see it until just now.

This was a heartbreaking post, and my heart absolutely goes out to Judy and her daughter.

I, too, would offer my 'amen' to Digger's comment. As 'answers' go, that's probably about as well as it can be stated.

And yet, it's maddeningly unsatisfying to just say "we live in a fallen world", and write it off to that, and human free will, isn't it?

I wouldn't dare presume to place my own sufferings on a par with Judy's - next to hers, ours are pretty trivial. But I will say that, at the point where I was most tempted to despair, I came across the passage from the book of Job, where Job says, "even though He slay me, yet will I love Him." And I had to admit that I was stuck - I couldn't do other than love God, even if He just kicked the living shit out of me for years on end. Mother Theresa said that "There is no spiritual growth without suffering," and I think that that's been true for us, but I certainly understand the point of view that asks God, "Why?"

It just seems that life turns out to be way more heartbreaking than we planned on. . .

8:15 AM  
Blogger Hip Grandma said...

she has a friend like you and I think that is a blessing.We cannot explain the reason behind suffering.So let us try to face it as best as we can

11:52 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Thank you all for your kind and generous comments.

LePhare, I find that I am thinking of you often. I wish I knew more other people, either locally or online, who are carers. I feel very alone sometimes, and seeing the courage of people like yourself who are in a much worse position than me is very inspiring to me.

I am *blushing* at the idea of me having the gift of compassion and I wish it were true - at the moment, I feel like I have the burden of being thoroughly pissed off!

I guess it is not an accident that at the moment, when reading the bible, I mainly read Job and Ecclesiastes. Its a good thing they were included!

3:42 PM  
Blogger Fiona said...

I'm probably going to get it in the neck for this but....there is no God for me.

There is you and me and him and her, them and us. People. People who can make a difference, people who have good things happen and bad things happen. People who let others lean, and people who are better at being leaned on than others.

Shit happens...and good things do to. That is life. Good and bad. Some have more bad, some have more good. Why? Who can say although there are many theories.

The living of lives happens when we learn to appreciate the good and cope with the bad.

And you, Emily are a person of great character in my book.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No wonder Judy is an atheist."

Was she an atheist at the begining of the story, or just by the end?

Although her story is sad, and awful stuff happens in the world, I will merely quote from the bible and leave it at that:

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Emily

I will not feel sorry for your friend because I see her as a fighter.. an inspiration for people like you and me.. there is a concept in India "Anbe Shivam".. loosely translated.. God is but the love in you and me.. there is God in every being that loves another.. when you care for her you are God.. when she fights for her child..she is God.. when Rachel fights her disease to live for her mum.. she is God..dont know if this sounds glib.. but such a thought has made my life much more meaningful than rhetorical questions on "Why me? o r even "Why at all"

6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know EXACTLY how you feel, and I DO mean EXACTLY. My "mother" (who was as abusive as HELL to me) was chronically ill with one medical problem after another, and for the next 6 years until her death, my dad and I took care of her. I was robbed of my teenage and high school years, and of having a happy, normal childhood with two loving parents because, from the age 10 on, I literally had a daughter instead of a mother. I also had a good relationship with God at the time, and I was a damn good Christian daughter, if I do say so myself. I never drank or did drugs. I hardly ever left the house besides school, so Dad never had to worry if whether or not I was running around having sex with boys, etc., etc., etc. Then problems with my obsessive-compulsive disorder really started kicking in and drove me to attempt suicide, and when I did, when I was in the mental hospital receiving "treatment," the only thing I REALLY received was a broken heart and a bunch of insults -- from a patient AND some of the staff there! Talk about people in the wrong profession!!! And things don't end there, oh, no. I've been struggling to get through college and finally get myself on my feet and out of my father's house for a change, so I can start doing the things an adult is supposed to do, which is what I long to do and would do if I could stop running into so many brick walls. A month or so ago, my father had a heart attack, and he's really the only soul I have on this earth. The doctors and nurses damn sure weren't going to give me the hope and compassion I needed. In addition to my OCD, I also have bipolar and type I diabetes, and the rest of my wonderful backwoods redneck cousins just left me to dry. I was so distraught and worried about Dad that I stopped eating and taking my insulin for days. I was literally dying on the floor in my house, alone, because the rest of my "family" didn't care enough to help take care of me so that I could focus on Dad like I needed to. I found the strength to pick myself up off the floor and I started taking care of myself again, and the next time I went to the hospital to visit Dad in the ICU, SECURITY GUARDS escorted me back to Dad's room because I had cussed or something on the phone to one of Dad's doctors. Apparently I "made some threats" or something...really all I said to the high and mighty doctor when he said, "Sometimes we fail," was, "This is my daddy we're dealing with, so you'd better not fail this time!" Can you believe that? After a lifetime of struggle and being robbed of a decent childhood, I get abandoned by the rest of my "family" when I need them most. I do what God wants me to do and I get up and I keep fighting, and WHAT, may I ask, is my reward??? FUCKING SECURITY GUARDS TREATING ME LIKE A DAMNED CRIMINAL!!!!!! Can you imagine what it's like seeing your father hooked up to a respirator with a SECURITY GUARD standing just outside the room??????!!!!!!!

Um....and God is supposed to be loving and compassionate and care about His, right!!! I'm not convinced. Not anymore.

12:06 PM  

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