Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free Will

A blog reader asked my opinion last week about some big questions... like why God gives people talents only to later take them away with disease. And why some others, who have been given talents and choose not to use them, are left alone to their own devices. Basically, why in the world would God give a disease to me and not to someone else.

So, here's the deal... I have no basis for my opinion other than the fact that it makes sense to me. I'm sure there are people waaayyy smarter than me who could give you scientific information and people who could point you to biblical references. All I have are conclusions I've come to by living it, praying about it and doing my usual ... mixing my logic and my faith together and seeing what emerges.

So, tomorrow I'm going to write some thoughts on talents, but first I'm going to repost something I wrote back in June that will hopefully help you understand that I don't think God, as my Father, decided to make me sick or chose to bestow an illness on me. Loving parents want to spare pain and hurts, not inflict them.

Just my opinion.

I think free will allowed two people to fall in love and have a child, and their genetics combined to create me. And in those genetics was a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. Just like others may have heart disease or diabetes or a myriad of other illnesses... it's just luck of the draw. But I think God, after allowing that free will, then helps us to see that we can make beautiful choices out of difficult situations. He may lead me to the best ways to cope, He may lead me to comfort, He may lead me to serve by helping others... but choosing to follow His lead is my choice through free will as well.

Here is the post that will hopefully help that make sense:

Pick A Road
(originally posted 6.30.2008)

You know the Robert Frost poem about two roads diverging in the woods? It's been popping into my head a lot lately and makes me wonder if it may be how God works with free will.

I know, it's scary to think about how my brain works, isn't it?

Bear with me. I've been watching a lot of news coverage about the horrible effects of the floods around my area. At first it was a constant state of urgency about the water levels and people needing to evacuate different neighborhoods. One news station was running solely on generators and kept apologizing for the fact they hadn't showered in three days because they were in the heart of the hardest hit area and had no running water.

To be honest, that part of the tragedy was easier to watch.

Now we are hearing about the long-term effects. The contamination. The waste. The ruined homes. The plans to demolish. The homeless. The jobless. The exhaustion. It breaks my heart. And somehow, so many of the people interviewed talk about the hope they feel, the resolve to rebuild and make their lives strong again. You can tell it's at the core of who they are, because it's their instinct to believe in hope even when their eyes are so very weary.

There was recently a news piece about a church community that had lost their building, and another faith denomination had offered their church as a place of worship. The interviewer was asking different people about their situations and how their faith has pulled them through. Some people said they knew things were going to be ok and they couldn't make it without their faith. Others just simply said they didn't know how God could do this to them. And I think it's a valid question; when you talk about God having a plan for us... then wouldn't the bad stuff be in His plan as well? But that question lacks a key component: free will.

Free will means that stuff is going to happen. We make choices every day that affect the outcome of our lives. We choose where to live. We choose who to marry. We make decisions about our education or having children or where to have dinner. People with more power in society decided where to build towns and levies and infrastructure.

And then it rains.

I don't think God looked around this Earth and decided one day to mess with the people of Iowa. I think all of our decisions and our ancestors' decisions came together with a natural rain and it created an opportunity for a flood. Free will. Stuff happens. Could God stop it all? You bet. But He promised us He wouldn't. He gave us free will and the opportunity to make ourselves strong again.

That's where the poem comes into play. (I told you my brain would take you there eventually.)

I think in front of every person who is hurt, God lays out paths in front of them... roads, if you will. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other, but they are choices for us to make. You can rebuild your home, you can move away, you can relocate to higher ground. And whichever road you choose to walk down, I think God is on it making sure you see the potholes you could fall in, the pebbles you could trip over and the sunshine that could warm your face through the trees. In every instance, I truly believe He is putting the possibility of blessings on your path if you're willing to reach out and take them.

I'm not so crazy as to believe any one of the roads will be easy. You might choose a road of self-pity and despair for awhile, but eventually you'll stumble on a blessing that will make your path smoother. It's not about God making sure bad stuff never happens. It's about the fact that He holds us when it does. That's what dad's do best. They don't stop you from trying new things. They don't tell you not to take any chances. They cheer you on when you choose to try. They tell you that anything is possible. And when you mess up, when you fail, when you fall... a dad picks you up, brushes you off and wipes your tears away. Then he tells you to try again.

The flood victims are in the stage where they need to be brushed off and their tears wiped away, but I believe with my whole heart that there will be roads diverging in front of them, and God will be there cheering them on as they try again. Because that's what fathers do.


  1. Yes, He does. Thank you.

    All my love.

  2. This was awesome. Just absolutely awesome. You said so eloquently something I could never find the words for, yet think all the time.


  3. My daughter wrote a post similar to this awhile back for her church blog and yours really struck a chord with me, as did hers. Very nicely done. Thanks for your beautiful thoughts. Here's KT's post:

    I'm totally stealing your "stepping stones" button :)

  4. Sara,

    That was just beautiful!! Wow! I'm continually amazed at your positive attitude and wonderful spirit! You are such an inspiration! Thank you, friend!

    Jess :)

  5. Don't really think anyone could have said it better.
    love love love

  6. The last paragraph ended this wonderful post...just perfectly!

  7. The earth stood still the day you helped me understand that God doesn't give illness. I am not too prideful to admit this is something I didn't have a good grasp on. And to add to this image of HIM as a parent just seals it for me. You have a true gift of making spiritual concepts so accessible and concrete that I can't help but walk away a changed person!

    Every. Stinkin. Time! :)))))))

  8. This is really good.. I may even use bits of it to explain why I'm disabled to people!! I think you've been listening to the Spirit whispering in your heart, Sara..

  9. WOW!

    Today before I came to your blog I was thinking about you. I have no idea why you came to mind you just did. I was thinking about your illness and your blog. My mind was heading in the direction that your illness and blog has made you a Witness to so many more than you would have ever known without this. Somehow it made me think of Pie-neer woman and MM. I know you read her blog as well. Remember when MM went to SD with the girls last fall. He made the statement that optimisim is found in the homes with faith.

    Then hours later when I get a chance to see what you wrote today, I'm floored. Apparently you were thinking in a similar direction today too.

  10. i've been rewrestling with job's "He gives and takes away". how can both life and death come from the same hand?

    i've never wavered in my theology. until now.

  11. Hello Sara

    I've been reading your blog now every day for about 2 months. This is my first time commenting.
    Your post today reminded me of a quote from JFK.

    "Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger."

    I think we are all stronger than we realize. I know you certainly are. When I read some of your posts it's like listening to myself sometimes. I've never known anyone who thinks like I do but that changed when I discovered your blog. I don't mean to sound like a braggart but it's true.

    Thank you Sara for having your blog and saying the things you do. I think you are a beacon for people to help them see the truth.