The first misstep is failing to recognize that suffering and evil are universal experiences that touch each of us. How many times have you seen a news story on television where the eyewitness being interviewed regarding the tragedy said something akin to “I can’t believe this happened in our little town (or neighborhood, or community, or school…)?” If we are blind to the universal nature of suffering and evil, we will fall prey to an attitude that affirms that such events are restricted to others who do not have the same advantages we enjoy. It’s the kind of attitude that holds that those events on the news should happen in the slums, among minorities, the poor, or drug addicts or gangs. Evil and suffering are expected in those contexts, but not on our suburban cul de sacs. This conviction affirms the American dream which encourages us to work hard enough to be able to create geographical distance from the existence of evil and suffering in the world. But the reality is that we are never out of the reach of evil and suffering. We cannot isolate ourselves from it.
Another misstep is to believe that our resources and our resourcefulness can insure our security. Or to be more specific, my money will buy my security. When we have this attitude we think we can prevent most anything because of our education and our work ethic. We can beat the odds. If something does happen it can be minimized because we’re pretty smart. But we cannot insulate ourselves from adversity no matter what we have or what we know.
The final misstep is perhaps the most important one I need to acknowledge. It is the conviction that I am entitled to security because God owes me security. When we possess this attitude we believe that God is somehow under our obligation because we are good people who do good things. Don’t get me wrong, character and integrity are always to be affirmed. Moral and ethical behavior should as well. Volunteerism and active participation in any number of good causes should be celebrated. But none of those things will guarantee security. They will not prevent evil and suffering from touching your life. You cannot put God under your obligation.
Next time I’ll post some thoughts I have concerning how we can frame the conversation in a way that will be beneficial to us.