Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Michael Abrahams | Do we have unrealistic expectations of God?

Published:Monday | July 30, 2018 | 12:30 AM
Abrahams

Recently I had a heartfelt conversation with a devout Christian lady. She lost her husband to a heart attack more than a year ago and is still grieving. I knew her husband as well, and they had a beautiful relationship, a strong and fulfilling marriage that lasted more than 40 years. 

Her husband’s death threw her into a tailspin, her pain still evident as she recounted his final hours and sudden demise. While expressing her feelings about the tragic episode, however, she revealed that she had been angry with God. She spoke of Lazarus being raised from the dead and was genuinely at a loss as to why God did not resurrect her husband despite her praying in earnest.

I have been here before. Several years ago, a friend of mine lost her lovely daughter to cancer. Devastated by the loss, she, too, had been angry with God for not sparing her child, despite her fervent prayers. I feel it for these women and grieve with them. I also empathise with them. In their minds, they had invested greatly in a relationship with a powerful deity who they believed abandoned them when they desperately needed divine assistance.

The irony in all this is that I am not religious, but unlike many folks who are, I have never been angry with God. Ever. And I do believe that there is a Creator, but I have never had a reason to direct my anger there. Being a deist, although I believe that a supernatural force is responsible for the universe and life, I do not believe that this entity intervenes in our lives, answers prayers or works miracles. In my opinion, the Creator owes us nothing. 

Many of the faithful do not realise how vast the Universe is. Our galaxy is but a minute speck, our solar system a speck within that speck, and our planet yet another speck within the above-mentioned specks. And we are all minuscule specks on our speck of a planet. 

I have seen no evidence to support the widespread belief that God gives a rat’s ass about what we, ‘microspecks’, want. Good and bad things happen to good and bad people, but we continue to bombard God with requests and expect great things.

Many of us mere mortals believe that God thinks like us. We see ourselves as God’s children and believe that God will treat us the way a loving parent would treat his or her offspring.

But if God is so complex, mighty and awesome, I find it presumptuous to even assume to comprehend how God’s mind works. 

If you are a professor who teaches calculus, do you expect a kindergarten student to even begin to understand the depth of your calculations? Even if you explain to the child that the term ‘instantaneous rate of change’ refers to the value of the first derivative of a standard function of the form y=f(x), they will not have a clue about what you speak of and may even start to cry. This is how I see God and us. 

In my humble opinion, it is arrogant to expect God to listen to us and give us what we want. If God is omniscient, we really do not need to tell Him/Her/It what we want, as the entity would already be cognisant of our desires and how we feel. I believe that instead of expecting God to give us stuff and to fix things, we need to face a harsh reality, and it is that there is a very real possibility that God is not doing a thing right now.

I recall a patient of mine who had fibroids that enlarged her to uterus to the size of a five- month pregnancy. Surgery was suggested, but she told me that she would pray for healing and was confident that the tumours would be “prayed away”. However, the fibroids remained and were ‘miraculously’ removed by surgical instruments in an operating theatre.

Another lady suffered an early miscarriage and was told that no heartbeat was present after an ultrasound examination was performed. She was advised to undergo a minor procedure, but instead chose to discuss the issue with her pastor and pray about it. The heartbeat did not return, and she ended up having to have the procedure done anyway.

Man, with his enquiring mind, has spent millennia philosophising, postulating and theorising about God’s existence and powers. However, we have not fully elucidated God’s purpose, if He/She/It does, in fact, exist. Believing that God cares, however, comforts us.

I am grateful for the universe and for my existence. I believe that I should love and respect my fellow human beings and other life forms on Earth and take care of the environment on the planet on which I live. 

What I feel for the Creator is respect, awe and immense gratitude. My issue has never been with God, but with religion and the weirdness and wickedness attributed to God by man, and our unrealistic expectations.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.