Two Women in a Diner (Suffering Pt. 1)

I was sitting at a new diner that I have found called the World Garden in Bentonville the other day.  The people there were mostly religious types because the place is a just-cause sort of place, donating a portion of their profits to several causes around the world. 

A couple women were sitting at the table next to me.  One was explaining how she was worried about how she and her husband were going to make ends meet.  He had been laid off recently and she had a part-time job as a secretary.  Their house was under water, meaning they owed more than it was worth and they didn’t want to move somewhere else and take their high school children out of school to move.

After dumping all of this onto her friend (and a two table radius), her friend said, “Debbie, You know what you have to do?”  I think I leaned in because I knew she was going to have some deep wisdom for her friend.  “You have just got to give it all up to God.  He will fix everything.  Just let him.  As you know the fervent prayer of a rightous person accomplishes much.'”

I think that was about as helpful as suggesting she eat cardboard for breakfast.  This was confirmed when the distressed woman, nearly in tears, said, “We are praying and we are asking for help but we just don’t see a way out.”

Later the same day another pair of women were talking.  One was telling her friend about how blessed she had been by God.  “…we knew about the market and the housing crisis or whatever, but me and Bobby both felt that Jesus was pushing us to build a new house.”

“Wow… really?” asked her friend.  “Yes, and you should see the lay out.  Huge basement for the kids to have a game room, cathedral ceilings in the livingroom.  It is over twice the size of our house now.”  She was very excited that this is what Jesus had put on her heart.

Religious language makes me uncomfortable. 

All of this “put on my heart” or “give it to Jesus” or  “God told me to”  or “God wants me to”  just comes off weird to me.  And these two contrasting stories are why I am bothered by it.   Because when the woman told her friend about her life falling apart around her it must be because she wasn’t praying enough, or because she hadn’t “given it to God.”  Meanwhile, another woman was citing God as the reason that she was building an elaborate house twice the size of the one she was in.  Most of my experience with religious language is that it seems to just be a way of justifying your wants or not addressing the problems you have. 

One of my favorite stories is about the guy whose plane crashed.  He was floating in the ocean praying, “God save me!”  Meanwhile a ship sailed by but he waved them on because he was waiting for God.  A helicopter flew over, but he waved them on waiting for God to save him.  Eventually he drowned.  When he got to heaven he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?”

God looked at him and said, “Listen, I sent you a boat and a helicopter.”

You can’t wait on signs.  You can’t wait on a voice from heaven.  You are the person that has to walk through life.  You have to make these decisions.  You were given free will, two legs and language so that you could go out and do the things that you need to do.  Jesus died for you so that you could live for him.  So, go live.  Make decisions.  So, when someone tells me things about thier life I am understanding, but I will also offer practical advise, not divine escapism. 

This is not to say you shouldn’t pray.  I think you should.  I am saying it doesn’t stop at prayer.  Prayer and action are a tough combination.  In the end you are still responsible. 

Now, I am not God.  I am consistantly striving to get a good grasp on him, but know that in my entire life I will only get glimpses.  But, I find it hard to wrap my mind around a God who wants a woman to have cathedral ceilings and a game room for her children, while he also wants to put one woman’s family in a position that could have long term negative affects on their family. 

Like I said, sometimes I feel like I am following a God who I can never really get a hold on.  I know that he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  I know good things happen to bad people and that good things happen to good people and the other way around. 

I had a direction in this… I don’t know what it was.  I think I will just leave it here.  This is obviously going to be a multiple parter…

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About coleyoakum

My name is Coleman Yoakum. I am formerly a student at Harding University. Today you can find me in Detroit Michigan doing what I can to expand the Kingdom of God and preparing to start an intentional community in Pontiac. I enjoy reading, writing, photography, music and politics. I am sure that all of these things will find their way to this blog from time to time. Twitter: coleyoakum Facebook: Coleman Yoakum Email: coleyoakum@gmail.com Flickr: flickr.com/photos/coleyoakum/

4 responses to “Two Women in a Diner (Suffering Pt. 1)”

  1. iantrevor says :

    Thanks for this. I’m growing weary of seeing the damages of the prosperity gospel (grr, Joel Osteen) and the way sincere people are hurt by it. In all likelihood, God won’t make you win the lottery to get you out of deep debt.

    Instead, maybe he’ll send you a helpful friend who will kick you in the pants and make you spend what you’re given better.

    It’s nothing new, but your assertion that prayer plus action is necessary for positive movement is a world-changing concept.

  2. coleyoakum says :

    Ian,
    I had a good conversation about the prosperity gospel last night with Jimmy Shaw. I am thinking through that. I am working about a week ahead of my blog, so stop back by for some thoughts on that in a couple of days.

  3. coleyoakum says :

    What advise would you have given each of those ladies? I am still at a loss…

  4. Katie Holmes says :

    I find this frustrating as well, Coleman. Especially stories like the second lady you talked about. I’ve never understood people using God and his will to justify having nicer and bigger things. That’s not what we’re promised at all. Colby and I were talking a little while ago about this, and we decided that a lot of times having the “nice” and “big” things is actually more of a detriment to your spiritual life than a blessing. It’s just easy to get caught up in those things that don’t matter a single bit.

    I honestly approach situations like the one the first lady is facing very realistically. Life is hard. It really sucks sometimes. You just have to decide what it is that you need and want the most and keep plugging away. Look for resources and look for opportunities that may be made available to you. Yes, prayer is a VERY important part of making it through, but I think that when you pray and ask God for help you have to do it on his terms, and that doesn’t always get you an immediate solution. As a friend I’d give her all the support and help that I could, but I don’t believe in giving people false hope, and I think the hope that God will jump in and fix everything right away is very false. He CAN (and does sometimes), but it doesn’t appear that that’s how he normally operates. He gives help and opportunities to get us out of trouble, but we have to do most of the work.

    That seems like a big ramble. Sorry. As for the second lady – I’d have a lot of trouble not asking her how she thinks God would feel about her building a bigger barn (oops…house) while so many people are starving, homeless, etc. But I’m a little cynical about those things.

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