What Is God’s Plan?

He may have said something inflammatory, but Indiana Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock did at least get me thinking. In case you missed it, Mourdock was discussing his stance on abortion in a debate with Representative Joe Donnelly. In explaining how he came to his beliefs that abortion is only okay if the mother’s life is at stake, he tried to point out why rape is not a valid reason in his mind.

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” said Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer.

There are several different reasons people are outraged and angered by this comment, including the repulsive image of God planning a rape in order to bring a child into a woman’s life, but the thing that sticks with me is the idea of God’s plan/God’s will and what that really means.

As you know, I consider myself a Christian. I grew up in a Catholic family and now attend Methodist services when I’m home in Texas. (I cannot find a single Methodist in Poland.) I also consider myself a bit lost at times on my faith journey. There are many teachings I struggle to live out and many I just don’t understand. A lot of the distress is due to my human frailty and weakness. Some of that uncertainty is from lack of study. Some of the doubt though comes from thinking on my own and listening to my own heart.

The doubts brought on by the second thing have me wondering if I’m really faithful at all. Am I willing things, God in particular, to match my life because it’s so hard to live up to His calling? Am I being naive about the love I feel He has for us?

My father and I have had discussions about whether or not someone like Mother Teresa would be in heaven if she were not Christian. Would her many good works and generous deeds be enough? Or would God turn her away if she didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus? My heart wants to believe that God knows her heart enough to love her and grant her a heavenly place of rest, but that is not what’s taught. I place my husband’s family in this category too. His sweet Bubbie passed away in 2010, and I loved her so much. She welcomed me to the family right away and loved me easily. But, she was Jewish, so obviously she did not believe in Christ as the Messiah. The God I feel in my heart would never turn Bubbie away. Nor would he reject my sensitive, giving brother for being gay.

See? It seems like I’m believing things in my own way according to the world I live in. Am I confusing my love for God’s?

And this brings me back to Mourdock’s comment and the concept of God directing our lives. I believe God gave us free will. I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible. (Seriously, I’m not well-versed on the verses.) So, does God’s will trump mine? Why give it to me then? I’m not asking to be snarky. This question rattles around in my head all the time. What does the phrase ‘God’s will’ even really mean? I interpret it as what God wants done will be done. I do believe He can move mountains and part seas. But does He intend for a woman to be raped in order to have a child? That doesn’t sound right.

Some people refer to this concept as God’s plan. To me that insinuates a life He’s already plotted for me. But, again, if that were so, why wouldn’t He plan for everyone to believe in Him? Did he plan for 2006 to be the year I lost my brother and my son? And this question has been with me for a long time: If my life is already written in God’s book, why does He command me to pray? The word ‘pray’ is in the Bible at least 100 times (depending on the translation used). We pray for healing and peace. We pray for guidance. And I believe my prayers are answered. My husband is the answer to a prayer. My kids are as well. I prayed hard that losing my son would not make my parents abandon their faith. They absolutely have not.

I see the awful things happening around the world as consequences of man. War is the product of humans and their anger and pride (mostly).  Car accidents happen because people are careless. Rape is the product of sickness of the mind. But did God make it happen? Man, that’s rough. I just can’t make my heart believe that.

I see God as our parent. And just as a parent cannot stop his or her child from being hurt, God can’t either. He has to let us reap what we sow because He gave us free will. But, like a loving parent, He does His best to provide us love and comfort when we hurt. Like a mother staying up to make sure the kids get home safe, He offers to carry our fears and worries as His.

Then my brain stumbles again because God is not like me, really. He can make trees grow new leaves every spring. He raised His own son from the dead. Why can’t He stop pain and suffering? And why does a woman leading a decent life get raped and pregnant?

Again, I’m not asking to be argumentative. I really do wrestle with these very big faith questions often, and I think Mourdock’s words made many people think about ‘their’ God and what He does and does not do. I wish I had the answers, but all I have to offer is my faith that God is love.

8 thoughts on “What Is God’s Plan?

  1. This is such an interesting post. Thank you for leading us through some of your thoughts. It’s fascinating to learn a little bit about how someone else processes important ideas.

    I am not a Christian, so I probably work through these issues differently and don’t know if my perspective is useful but here is what I believe. We don’t have answers, only intentions. If there is a God, no one can presume to speak for him. Some issues are so personal and powerful they need to be left to individuals to work out for themselves with whatever guideposts are meaningful to them. I can see a man coming to a personal conclusion through his own understanding of God and logical steps worked through the way he’s been taught his religion that children conceived through rape are a good thing. (Nothing God creates is an error, his plan is bigger than individual suffering, life is the highest good.) However, there are enough variables and uncertainties that it makes sense he could come to a different conclusion on a different day that seems just as logical and in keeping with his religion. (Human beings have free will, the horrors people unleash upon each other are an affront to God and not to be condoned, we are ultimately responsible for our own lives regardless of any plan.) Therefore he should be careful about what kinds of judgements he casts, particularly where legislation is concerned and he is dictating important decisions for others. The truth is, as a man, he will personally never be impregnated due to rape. For him the exercise is theoretical. For victims of rape it is not, and I think they are rightly offended and frightened that he could have a say about their bodies and futures. It is not compassionate to make public statements that appear to trivialize someone else’s trauma because you think you know what God wants when the truth is nobody knows that for sure.

    I think we have a responsibility, regardless of religion, to err on the side of compassion wherever possible. Sometimes there are no good answers or choices.

    • I agree about no one being able to speak for God. It’s all in man’s hearts. We have to be quiet and listen for Him.

      And, as you so expertly stated, we can’t say what God wants for others besides the obvious that He wants us to love each other. And that means erring on the side of compassion. You summarized the thoughts I was getting to eventually. :-)

  2. Stephanie…what a brave and honest post. After watching my mom suffer and die a horrible death from cancer, I, too, came to a point in my life where I had to hit my questions with religion head on. I saw friends bury babies and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you’ve been through. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a Christian, but I never had to deal with the tough stuff until my 30′s. And….I can say, that I’ve found answers to all the questions you write about above and it has strengthened my faith to a new level. By no means does this mean I’m perfect, or an expert, but it means that I truly learned about who God is, how big He is, what His intentions are for us while we are here and truthfully, so many other things that I didn’t realize I wanted to learn. I learned that I only knew a portion of the truth of God and it kept me from truly enjoying Him until I went on my search to know Him.

    Romans is the book of the bible that hits humans’ free will vs. God’s all knowing power and sovereignty head on. You’re right, it’s in there! :)

    One of the best books I’ve read was recommended to me by one of my best friends (who I met while teaching at Ford!) when I was struggling. It’s “Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts” by Gerald Bridges. Another one that tackles the big questions of religion and it’s purpose is “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller. These gave me much to consider as I was on my journey.

    But truly, the person who helped me the most is named Ben Stuart. He leads a bible study on the campus of Texas A&M every week and it’s called Breakaway Ministries. You can either go to the website and download some podcasts for free or get them off of itunes for free. Even though it’s aimed at college students, you will totally be able to relate. In fact, I’m in a bible study with all moms and we watch him and discuss his talks. I often run while listening to them or watch them on the ipad. Over 9,000 students show up each week to hear him speak. He answered all of my thoughts/concerns that you speak of, above, in a way that no other person ever has. He knows not only what the bible says, but why it was written in the way it was. He’s real, he’s honest, he’s knowledgable and he’s very humble. I would recommend starting with his series on the Lord’s Prayer because he explains who God is and how He wants us to view Him, but he also addresses specific topics in different podcasts too (homosexuality, etc).

    I’m not trying to persuade your opinions or views by any means, but thought I’d share a few of the resources that helped me answer the same questions and helped me truly find my purpose. And you’re right, above all else, God is love. He loves us more than any person can on Earth and He’s compassionate, and gentle and caring. This world we live in is broken….it’s so sad that there is such a thing as rape and that humans could ever do that. Rape is not planned by or from God. The books and podcast above address these things way better than I can, but, in no way, does it come from Him.

    Thanks for your post. I’ve loved hearing about your adventures in Poland!
    katie

    • Thanks for commenting your honest feelings Katie. I absolutely appreciate the resources you’ve suggested. I told my friend Kara that I needed a Bible study stat when I get back to Texas. Looks like I have some ideas about what study I might like to start with. ;-) And I see your happy family and beautiful love for your husband and kids and know you tell me these things because you want everyone to feel peace. Thanks sweetie.

  3. First, let me say that I’ve had a post similar to this bouncing around on my head for about a month at least, but due to my mental state I haven’t been able to write it down & process it all. Then I read this and find someone else in the boat with me-someone who has the same questions, who struggles in their faith journey, who NASA hard time making sense of God’s standards & will. Is God really so black & white? Rigid and staunch in what He expects of us? Or is that just man’s interpretation of what is written in the Bible? Or do we, because of this struggle & wrestling to sort through all of this, just pick & choose what is “convenient” for us & the direction WE feel our lives are going & just throw away or ignore what makes us uncomfortable or agree with? Then, does God in His omnipotence, even care if we agree with how He says our lives should be lived?

    I haven’t been to church in a year and a half, for varying reasons, and I’m at the point where I don’t believe life is so black in white….MY life exists in that cloudy gray area, due to circumstances & the decisions (or sins) I’ve made. I’m not married to the man I live with. When we separated in part because of my spiritual struggle with wanting to uphold the ” no shacking up” standard, it honestly caused a lot of problems, financially & otherwise. My boys were separated & I was devastated. Now that we’re back together, in my heart, I feel peace about the situation and the fact that my family is whole again. I feel it’s right, and that I’m doing the what’s best for us right now. We are planning on getting married-just not tomorrow. So am I wrong, living in sin? Is my heart deceiving me? Do I just stay away from God until I can be in “right” standing with His marriage standard? I have no clue.

    I hope that all made sense…I know we have free will…but I also *believe* God controls our lives (that’s what I’ve been taught) to what extent & if He allows good (a child) to come from such awful things like rape…I don’t know. I just don’t. I believe like it says in Isaiah 6:3 that He does give us beauty for our ashes and it says in Ecclesiastes He makes all things beautiful in it’s time…..so I believe He can birth beauty out of the pain in our lives….but again, I don’t know how to reconcile rape or such horrific & traumatizing things with God’s plan. As someone who’s been sexually assaulted & molested as a child/teen, I really struggle with this.

    Anyway-long comment but I hope it made some kind of sense.

  4. You should feel proud that you have such good friends that they will share such thoughts with you in such an honest and giving manner. I have a lot of thoughts on this subject, but typing has gotten a little tedious for me of late.

    For comfort, I once had a Jesuit priest console me that my questions were fair, and that the fact that I still believed in a loving God, reflected the gift of faith from God. He suggested that I be fair to myself and realize that what I have gone through was rough, and naturally would test me. He did not try to explain away all my questions, rather he held my hand in love and assured me God was always there with his love.

    I believe Man is certainly God’s greatest creation. He did not make robots but created us in his image – complete with the ability to do wrong. Think about it, a galaxy (created by God) is a wondrous creation. But once it is in motion it follows specific laws of physics. Not so Man. God lets us do bad or good, and wishes us to do good. The question is not why does God let bad things happen, but why do we?

    Free will? This has been studied for 2,000 years by the best of minds. I challenge you to do your homework. Your friends have given you some good hints, but I would refer you to go into some of the early writings and even checkout CS Lewis and GK Chesterton. If it is more than a passing stray line of thought, it is worth working at. How you deal with it will affect your whole life, and your boys lives also. It’s not a journey to be undertaken lightly. Consider the young boy who plays basketball by himself in the backyard. He thinks he is pretty good. Then he goes out for the team at school and is sadly ill prepared for competition. We need to seek out others and let them challenge us. We need to study and research the best minds to stretch our own knowledge. It doesn’t have to be learned all at once, but I think it deserves constant attention.

    And no, I am not there either, so thanks a lot for rubbing my nose in my own need to get back to work on it!

  5. I struggle with these same questions continuously. Thank you for talking so openly about it. It’s good to know I’m not alone. I agree that one this I am sure of is that God is good. Have a lovely week. Please stop by Word (((HUGS))) if you get a moment and say hi! :)

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