Search This Blog

Showing posts with label tragedy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tragedy. Show all posts

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Trusting His Plan: Thoughts on God and Why Bad Things Happen.

It's nearly Christmastime again maybe appropriately, I watched a movie which made me consider my faith a little bit differently.  It did not really change the core of my faith at all.  However, it gave me/reminded me an answer to the question that I've thought and I've heard many express:

How could a loving God allow bad things to happen?

I believe this can be a tough question for even the most devout people of faith.  Never-mind, those who are highly skeptical of Christianity, Catholicism and the like. God rest his soul, my Dad always would say, if there was really a God...and spout out a grievances in his life.  I would like to think he came to terms with God as his life was winding down, but that's beyond my control at this point. In a way, this is an example of  having to "Trust His Plan".   Anyway, I've heard other people along the way say show similar skepticism.  Either they questions whether God exists--how could there be a God..., questioned His nature or just outright question if He really takes a personal interest in His creation.  I am a man of faith, but even I've had my moments with this very question.

The movie I watched was called The Imitation Game.  To those unfamiliar with the plot, it was based on a true story of Alan Turing and his team's successful efforts to decipher Nazi messages encoded and sent by machines known as Enigma machines.  That is to say, break the code and be able to follow messages revealing information such as German troop and ship locations and movements.  Taking Turing's lead, they eventually were able to build a machine which could quickly decipher Enigma messages.  Given that the settings of the Enigma machines were changed daily, being able to decipher quickly was of paramount important.

Eventually, they were able to 'break the code' as it were.  That is, they were able to decipher the Enigma messages quickly before Enigma setting were changed daily.  In a scene that no doubt took liberties on historical facts, as soon as Turing's machine broke the code for the first time, it revealed the location of the German U-boats.  They were heading for a convey of ships meant to delivery supplies to the British.  One of Turing's team members had a brother in that convoy and he would likely be killed if the Germans U-boats were allowed to proceed unimpeded.  However, as Turing indicated, if the allies suddenly changed course and destroyed the German boats, it would be obvious to the Germans that their Enigma machine was compromised.  They'd then make adjustments which would effectively render the allies efforts ineffective.  Therefore, it was clear then that they could not and should not act on all the messages they'd deciphered.  They statistically determined  how much of the intelligence gleaned from Enigma that they could act upon without giving it away that they broke the code.  Also, they needed to make sure they'd be able to 'leak' a plausible cover story for how they got that intelligence that they acted on.

Given that they couldn't act upon all the information they had, it meant that some people that they could have saved would be allowed to die.  If the public had found out about they were not acting on all the intelligence they had, but didn't know the underlying reason, to them it would have seemed cruel and cold-hearted.  They would ask, how could a responsible government let citizens and allies perish if they had good intelligence on upcoming German attacks.  Effectively, the limited number of people who knew the 'The Plan', would appreciate why they didn't act on all the intelligence they had.  I suspect that even for some of those people, they probably cringed at how cruel it seemed.


My 'weak' understanding of "why bad things happen to good people' such as health issues and tragedies that befall them and sometimes their nations aren't necessarily a result of what they'd all had done or done recently.  Instead, some of it may have been a generational sin.  For example, in our own nation, we've come a long way towards recognizing the equality of people. Discrimination such as with Jim Crowe laws is not legally condoned anymore.  Yet we still have problems in this nation to this day.  My thought was that while I did not participate in the sin of slavery or Jim Crowe, problems and residual distrust that result from the sins of many generations, unfortunately do not just disappear overnight.  In other words, while I might have not participated in the sin, I can't escape the results of it. While I think this answer is sound, I don't necessarily think it can adequately cover 'why bad things happen to good people'.

I remembered in Biblical days, it was common to blame illnesses and problems on the sins of the family.  In John 9:2, Jesus' disciples took their understanding to Him:

John 9:2
His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Jesus knew that that was their understanding was flawed and said in John 9:3.  He knew that he man was 'allowed' to be born blind for a purpose:

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

The Imitation Game and Biblical stories like above really helped me to put it together I think.  In the case above, God's plan was that through the man's blindness, Jesus' healing power could be revealed.  I am not aware of this man's family and their faith, but I can imagine they might have to lean on 'Trusting His Plan" for why their son was born blind.   Similarly, in the movie, the populace had to 'Trust the Plan" for how their nation(s) fought WWII.  In other words, have a strong level of faith that leadership knew what they were doing, even when it might not always appear so.  Leadership could not always reveal the insight they had and why they made the choices they did.  Similarly, as in the movie and the Biblical story, God is aware that He should not reveal everything. It doesn't mean that God is cruel, that He doesn't care, or that He is okay when bad things happen.  On the contrary, by sending His Son to die for our sins, He showed how profoundly He cares for us.  What it may mean though is that there is a reason that we are not aware of why He allows bad things to happen.  In the The Imitation Game, the public was necessarily not aware of horrible choices that had to made to help shortened the war.  As indicated earlier, there was a reason for that.   Perhaps, in our own lives when tragedy befalls us or those close to us, God is aware of the big picture and realizes that for whatever reasons--our inability to comprehend, our unwillingness to accept, the need to defeating evil forces. etc--He cannot reveal His Plan for the big picture.

I guess ultimately for a person of faith the answer has to be to accept that:

  • God loves us and proved it with Jesus on the cross.
  • God hurts with us too.
  • Things may seem cruel or unfair, but as the movie and the Bible story illustrated, there really is a reason or "Plan" behind why things happen, even bad things.  It just is not always for us to know His will in our time.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Reel Life: What type of movie is your life?

As I mentioned in a previous post, Reel Life: Scenes from life's movie, sometimes I feel like life is a movie.  Specifically, I meant it is typically like a live showing of a movie at the theaters, where it keeps rolling and you only see the past in flashbacks (or prior frames).  Anyway, it occurred to me, if life is a movie, what type of movie is it?

There are many different genres of movies, just like there are many different types of people or personalities.   Just like a comedy usually has some serious moments, dramas have some lighter or comic moments, kids movies usually give a nod to grownups and such, our lives typically have more than one type of movie associated with it.  For example, even people whose life is built on created drama, have time of true drama or tragedy in their lives. That being said, let's stereotype a little.  

  • Biography - This type of movie represents those who are truth seekers.  It represents those who like see and say things straight.  Just like biographical movies, sometimes this type of person can be fascinating and refreshing, but sometimes can be 'too candid' and a killjoy.  After all, biographies don't just tell the good and interesting side of lives, but they also tell the not so good either. 
  • Comedy - The type of movie represents those who don't necessarily take life too seriously or too straight--whether it is due to a lightness of being or a darker more cynical perspective.
    • Laugh out loud comedy - This type of movie represents those who live life jovially.  While they have their moments, their moments don't keep them down for too long.  They try to look at the glass half full and they definitely try to find something to smile about.
    • Dark comedy - This type sees often deeper darker motives behind what is at play in life and society.  But instead of getting all would up about it, they sarcastically reflect on what they see.
    • Parody - They see life as a farce which they are privileged (or cursed) to see. As such, they take little at face value and tend to mock.  Dark comedy & parody have similar elements to them, but a dark comedy is still somewhat serious.
  • Science fiction - They are very creative and adventurous, but sometimes they are considered a little bit nerdy.  They tend to have something to believe in, even if it is not what everyone else does.
  • Western/war movie - People who these types of movies represent are very serious, no-nonsense types.  Like those in a biography, they tend to speak their mind.  Typically they don't care what other's think, but they live by their own code for justice and survival. 
  • Family movie  - These people live lives that would be labeled straight-laced or wholesome.  They try to speak, behave and live a clean, if not healthy life.  They may seem boring to some, but they are there to remind us of what is proper.
  • Musical - These people are the type who like to live large OR "put on a show".
    • Larger than life musical - These people like to live large, live loud and live flamboyant.  For them it is all about spectacle and the attention.  They just like the high or feeling of living big.  Really, it is a show they are putting on for their own entertainment.  The spectacle of their show often tends to make them fun to be around. 
    • Production value musical -These people live their life as a "show" they are putting on for themselves or others.   In their own personal show, they will do things to convince themselves they are "proper" thinking or behaving.  In other words, they live as they believe they should, rather than how they actually feel.  When they put on a 'performance' for others, they are trying to convince others of their inherent "betterness".  In a way, their actions or behavior has the feel of virtue signaling.
  • Drama - These people tend to live a life of excitement, adventure or trouble.  Sometimes, it is truly that way and sometimes it is overwrought.
    • A theatrical movie drama - They seen to get in and out of troubled circumstance and relationships.  Maybe it is to seek that elusive feeling of happiness and maybe it is just what they are comfortable with.
    • A "made for TV" movie drama - Typically their life has a feeling of being dull about it.  So, they feel the need to "create drama".  Usually, the drama has a feeling of being forced and avoidable, but it is their way of feeling relevant (at least to themselves).  Typically, others see through it, but sometimes when they run into someone in a similar circumstance, they have an audience for their "drama".
  • Tragedy - People with this type of life seem to have bad things happen to them or to those around them.  Really, I think you could say people who live a life of tragedy in a way are living a life of extreme drama.  People who live this life, if they are able to see around the destruction and sadness, can find a way to turn their life into a different movie, perhaps a biography.

Typically in life, we are given a script that we are expected to follow in our formative years.  That is the type of movie we are expected to live.  Sometimes, we are able to break away from that script at an early age and sometimes we never truly do break free from the script.  However, especially as we get older, we tend to have a greater ability to change the script or change "movie" we are living.   That being said, I do believe that although we have free will, it does seem like some people seem to be destined to follow a preordained script.  That may be true or it may just be a matter of how their 'movie' turned out.  That is to say, they lived a different script, but some event so altered their lives, they turned out to be a completely different person.  For example, Oprah Winfrey was born to a single mom, grew up in poverty, faced sexual abuse and was a teenage mom for a short period of time (to an infant son who died shortly after birth).  One could describe her early life's movie as a "tragedy".  But, due to her faith and her persistence, her life movie changes from a tragedy to a biography.  Hers is just one of many.

Anyway, what type of movie is your life or is it a combination of movie types?  Do you feel like your life's movie type has changed over time or due to events?  Just some questions to ponder as we live life's movie.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Life's misfortunes: No one is to blame

I was playing the song, "No One is To Blame" the other day by Howard Jones and realized that it applied to circumstances in the lives of a few people currently or in the last few years (as well as my own).   The quote above in a way captures the concept.

(Post originally written 3/5/15)

We make many choices in our lives:
  • Without the luxury of hindsight and often under pressure.  Hard to change a flat on rolling car, isn't it?
  • Without ever having had a positive example in the matter.
  • Without an 'instruction book' (at least that we know of).  That is to say, on very limited information.
  • That often seem equally as good or bad as any other.
  • Often in a lose-lose situation.
The point is that we do the best we can with limited resources and not always having good options.  We attempt to do the right thing, but are often restricted from or don't have enough time to see the bigger picture.  

In my own life, my marriage was failing and at the same time, my brother was struggling with his own demons.  Could have, should have, would have and the like.  In a better situation, I would have had the freedom to let him stay with me when he was struggling.  He asked me not to tell others in the family about the 'place he was'.   I made a judgement call that a)  doing so would shut him down to me and b) very likely would not have led to the help or support he needed anyway.  Due to the train-wreck that was happening in my own situation at the time, I had to step away.  I got the call that he was found deceased of a likely suicide.  I questioned myself: Did I do the right thing? Did I let him down?  If I'd hadn't temporarily stepped away would he still have been alive?  So many questions, so few answers.  Guilt abounding.  He was the one closest to me in personality and I had a beat on him, I had a bad feeling, I had bad vibes.  Yet, I couldn't save him.

I've come to realize that at best I would have bought him a little more time, but I was not equipped to deal with his level of hopelessness.  Beyond that, I'm just assuming that I could have made any difference.  Sometimes circumstances are what they are and the sooner we realize it the better off we are.

In the song, "No one is to blame", the implication is that the narrator is in a disconnected relationship.  He is bemoaning, the temptation of infidelity and the frustration involved.  "And you want her, and she wants you, no one is to blame" is the key phrase.  Through no fault of his own, it is likely that due to issues in his own relationship, someone else caught his attention.   Ultimately, it doesn't sound like he truly acted out with this other person.  I don't think he's condoning infidelity but more or less saying the temptation of it sometimes sneaks up on people.  He will not feel awful about being tempted, that these things happen.   In this case, his partner has a role in the disconnect and he likely has a role in the disconnect.  So, in a way, they are both at fault, but yet due to their imperfect relationship knowledge/experience, perhaps the disconnect that led to his outside temptation was inevitable and unavoidable.

There are many possible circumstances in life in which it is easy to blame, but if you step back and look objectively in a way, no one is to blame.  Below are a few examples:
  1. A person close to you ends their life, even if you had a sense of trouble, it is easy to blame yourself for not being there, even if on many occasions you had been. 
  2. Someone you know has health issues and you blame yourself when something bad happens.
    • They don't take care of themselves properly and you finally stop hounding them to and something happens to them.
    • They refuse to see a Dr. or go to the hospital and you relent and something happens to them.
  3. An unexpected/unforeseen illness/tragedy happens to someone in the family.  It tears the family apart. 
  4. In a marriage, for one or both partners, demons from long ago such as abuse/neglect have not been dealt with properly.  The coping mechanisms which were crucial in helping us survive the abuse/neglect were never shed in adulthood, never allowing us to develop effective positive relationship skills.  Over time, this leads to friction/damage in the marriage, perhaps to a point of irreconcilability.   Sure, blame could be tossed, but what good does it do?  In some ways, it might have been inevitable.
The way I see it is this: you do the best you can with the information/strength you have at the time, You hope and pray for the wisdom/strength to make the right choices.  For perspective, you keep in mind and are grateful for the good that has come in life, but are aware that misfortunes do happen, which are out of your control.   Mourn those misfortunes and realize that at times trying to control/fix/avoid these is like trying to lasso the wind.  In other words, reflect on, but don't get stuck on the misfortunes.  In short, sometimes everyone is to blame, but at the same time "no one is to blame".

* If you like this post, you may also like this one: