There is a strange intimacy that forms between fans and the bands they love.
I guess it makes sense: before we even meet, we have shared countless road trips, commutes, workouts and even bedtime routines. If my voice is the soundtrack to your life, of course I feel like part of your family.
One of the sacred side-effects of this closeness is that people tend to trust me with their most heart-rending stories. My new friends often bypass the niceties and skip straight to the site of their deepest trauma.
Being given a front row seat to someone else’s soul is a privilege. This vantage point enables me to witness inspiring faith, but to be honest, some really unhealthy theology too.
Christianity provides us with a rich understanding of suffering. Unfortunately, a lot of popular Bible teaching is so victory-focused it denies or bypasses pain.
For example, a woman once shared with me that she lost both her husband and daughter in the same year. Let the gut punch of that hit you for a second.
But she then went on to explain that it was actually a blessing, as God used this “setback” to open up amazing career opportunities. So praise God! He had a plan all along. (This whole story was relayed with a beaming smile, and told from tension to resolution in the span of 45 seconds.)
I’m not criticising her – I’m genuinely glad this lady had a framework to keep her from falling apart and, on some level, her positivity is wonderful. At the same time, I can’t help but feel her theology is too simplistic to withstand any kind of honest scrutiny.
When considered from her husband and daughter’s perspective, her narrative about God’s plan makes a lot less sense. I believe God is good, but his goodness is more mysterious and complex than is being accounted for in this testimony.
I know that Romans 8:28 promises that God will indeed “work all things together for good” (CEB). I would never diminish the power of that scripture to breathe miraculous hope into dark circumstances. The scriptures themselves are not shallow.
They can, however, be misused in ways that provide hollow answers to deep problems, papering over cracks that steadily deteriorate.
I sometimes wonder if we dangerously overspiritualise our pathway to healing. When we have a physical illness, we tend to pray and search the scriptures – but we also call the doctor.
For some reason, when the problem is emotional or mental, we are much more reluctant to seek professional care. I know that’s my story.
Thankfully in the case of my own struggles with depression, I was encouraged to pursue therapy alongside asking for God’s intervention, and this two-pronged strategy has continued to be effective.
I’ve learned that we don’t need to rush to craft a storybook ending out of our trials – we can let hard times be hard and live in the dissonance. Read Lamentations: that too is a kind of faith.
God does indeed have “plans to prosper” us, as it says in Jeremiah 29:11. But those plans can also involve a few appointments with a therapist, if necessary.
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