Thursday, October 16, 2008

What Say You?

A little background:
I used to wear gas permeable contacts. ( Though I've now joined the 21st Century and have soft contacts) These hard contacts were not disposable. I took great care of them most of the time. To give you an idea of how important they were to me- I had each pair for an average of 5+ years. To lose one would be just short of a tragedy. There were a few times when I did lose a contact for good. Though, more often than not, when I did lose one, I would find it. The process was always the same:
  1. Lose the contact
  2. Frantically search for the contact
  3. Search more for the contact in places where it couldn't possibly have gone
  4. Humble myself
  5. Offer a sincerely humble prayer
  6. Find the contact (Within two minutes of saying the prayer)
  7. Offer an intense prayer of thanks
One of these times I found the contact almost down the sink. It was halfway through the slit in the plastic drain piece (Though the slit in the drain piece had enough space to allow at least 3 contacts simultaneously)

These instances led me to believe that God had indeed intervened in my life. He inspired me where to look.

This was such a blessing for me. He blessed me. Yet, I thought, there are so many instances where God chooses not to intervene. What is the difference between me and those people who don't experience divine intervention? Why me? Initially, it was fairly simple for me to dismiss. After all, I have never been to a third world country and seen how wretched the actual suffering is. Nor can I imagine the full scope of suffering. I could easily justify an answer while sitting in a comfortable home with food available.

I had heard people ask: Why does God allow suffering? I usually gave answers that had no real logic or reason, but I would glaze over it and change the subject.

As I started to think about divine intervention, It made this question a bit more personal. I will pose the same question which troubled me:

Why would God intervene in the case of finding my contacts but does not intervene in the case of, for example, a child who dies of starvation?

I look forward to hearing what you think on this question.


Michael Paul Bailey said...

I think you already know my answer. :)

The Bakers said...

Such a deep question Mr. Mattson. I have a thousand answers swirling around in my head, however none of them deserve posting. My husband has been to those countries where children are starving and I'm sure he would have a much better response...perhaps I'll ask him. ( "

BrettM said...

Interesting to think about.

I have two immediate not-all-the-way-thought-through ideas and they both involve a belief in God to accept. Maybe that makes my answer flawed but here it is ...

1. First, I would say that God DOES intervene with starving children. I believe God works through people and there are a lot of people intervening on behalf of the starving and abused people of the world. Do these people reach everyone? No. But that is why it is important to do what you can to help and inspire others. He leaves taking care of each other up to us and we don't do a great job of it. We also need to look at the hundreds and probably thousands of years of personal, government, and religious choices made that led to millions of starving people. I believe that God tries to intervene through His servants on this earth to stop many of the atrocities that have and do occur.

2. In the case of the contact loss, I think it comes down to you taking the time to relax, meditate and pray. You focus your mind and then allow God to guide that clear mind to the contact that your brain probably already knew how to find. There are people that could say that all you needed to do was mediate and you'd find it too. I just add the prayer thing because we are talking about how we think God works and not IF he is actually necessary. For me, He is.

The major difference from the starving children example being that you are reaching out as an individual to Him for one moment of help to find something you lost. He is there to oblige in a personal moment of trial. And we don't know if God has not reached out to one starving child or many, at different times, to offer comfort or a rare meal or an answer to their individual prayer. I bet He has.

Are these answers totally logical? Probably not. But no discussion about an invisible creator of the universe can be, in my opinion.

My relationship with God is personal so my answers are about how I see God working in the lives of people as individuals. I don't think God uses superhero powers to intervene on this earth.

When I tell my kids to go in the backyard to play, I set up some ground rules and then let them go at it. They can make all the choices they want, get along, fight, beat the dog, or help each other out and play nice. I hope they make the best choices. And I am watching or listening. Sometimes they ask for my help. When they do, I come out and help them figure out how to solve their problems with the trampoline or with each other. And if the dog is dead, someone is going to get their privileges taken away.

Zank said...

My speculation is that God wants the world to play out as it will. Some say that God has his hand in all things but I doubt that He does. The more God intervenes, the less agency we are able to employ. Does God care if you ever find your missing contact? Maybe, but I think He cares more that you make it back to Him in the end. Those little moments that you have throughout your life where you wonder why God cares about seemingly meaningless things has brought you here today and evoked this very conversation. If he was involved in answering your prayer it was intended to help you keep the faith. So about the kids that are starving… Does it suck really bad? You bet it does, along with every other unfortunate situation and event. If you detach yourself from the emotion of the moment and float up into the clouds you might be able to see the perspective that lends itself to reason here. We all die in this life, and while some people may suffer while they live, it will all be for their experience in the here-after. Imagine meeting one of those starving kids in heaven and sharing your life stories on Earth. We each have a unique experience and that child would tell you that although it was hard to go through that trial at the time, now he knows what it is like to really starve. Is that something you know or may ever really get to experience? Perhaps you should envy him?

Elizabeth said...

Last year I was diagnosed with stage three cancer, and I wondered throughout the process and treatment why there was no intervention. Why I had so much to bear at age 23, when others seemed to have seamlessly flawless lives. I guess it comes down to our potential, and what we can become. When I was sick, I really learned about suffering, and therefore, I feel that it has opened me up to a world and life that I would never have been able to understand without it. Not only did it help me to become the person I am now, but those around me, who helped me through it, were also blessed with life changing experiences. Suffering, whether it is us or others, will effect us for the good if we let it. So I think that those children who are starving to death, like Brett said, do have God intervening on their behalf. It comes down to us. I think in every circumstance, every trial, it comes down to us. I also feel that God did intervene for me, even though it wasn't the way I had wanted or expected. It definitely wasn't the way that made the most sense to me. It turned out better than I could have planned. I have never felt so much protection and love from God than when I was sick, especially on the worst days. And there were bad days. That's how I found out what faith really was. It was no longer a Sunday school answer, but a choice about how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

As for your contact, I think that the Lord was just letting you know that the things that are important to you, even in the grand scheme of the universe, are important to Him because they are important to you.

Michael Paul Bailey said...

Even though you already know what my answer will be, I decided that I might as well share it. In my mind, there's a pretty simple answer to all of this. There is no God. We are alone.

I hope that doesn't offend anyone, it was not my intention.

Three Coin Productions said...

I find it interesting that the statements "There is no God" and "We are alone," are so often coupled together. I believe that one's refusal to have a relationship with God, often results in a feeling of loneliness, or isolation. But denial of a Supreme Creator can never result in truly being alone. The irony in saying "we are alone" absolutely baffles me, especially after one denies God's existence. No, Mike, WE are together. WE are NEVER alone. And I sincerely mean that.

As for Matt's conversation, I've been educated, uplifted, and inspired by the responses. Thought provoking post. You've obviously had some undeniable experiences with God through prayer. Lucky. He's proven to you that a great way to find what you are looking for is to pray. Based on that proof, it seems logical that you would pray for guidance in this.

When losing a contact, you've said that direct intervention from God results in finding it. I believe you. What would be the result of God's intervention in the life of a suffering child? Death? Continued life? No suffering at all? Perhaps in a case where the intervention is hard to identify, it's easy to miss. Trust that He is intervening, though, as much as He is with your vision.

Michael Paul Bailey said...

"I believe that one's refusal to have a relationship with God..."

I think that's a really rude statement that shows a lack of understanding of those of us who do not believe in God. I do not refuse to believe in God, quite the opposite. I have struggled to believe in him. But, ultimately, my life's journey has led me to this place where I do not feel that he exists, for so many reasons. To simply say that I am "refusing" to have a relationship with him is an extreme over-simplification.

"...often results in a feeling of loneliness, or isolation."

Although I can't speak for all atheists, I can say for a certainty that this atheist doesn't feel lonely or isolated. I have wonderful friends (you for example) and an amazing family. In that sense, I am not alone. But in a cosmic/spiritual sense, I do believe that we are alone. When I say "we are alone," it is to emphasis my belief that we are working it out ourselves down here without any help from above, not that I'm lonely.

Anonymous said...

My feelings on disparity:

I have been richly blessed for a million different reasons. I have opportunities that most of the world will never have. Sometimes I catch myself saying "why me?" I'm convinced I will never fully know why. I do know, however, that because I have been given much, much is expected of me. I have an obligation to make something of my life, to help others and to do what I can to repay the Lord.

In this world there has always been, and always will be, an imbalance of resources and opportunity. Be grateful for what you have and live your life in a way that allows you to bless others. Sure, you may not be able to stop world hunger, but you can help ease the suffering of those around you (and there are plenty of people in the big fat rich USA who are suffering, too).

I don't know if that answers your question, but I hope it provides some insight into the subject.

Adam Borg said...

Well I thought I would leave my thoughts and join this wonderful discussion.
I'm going to comment on why I believe there is suffering in the world.
Before we came to earth we lived with God who is so amazing that you could compare his awesomeness to the light of the sun and our awesomeness to the light of the stars and of course our amount of love and learning is also reflected by our light. When we were around God it was really hard to see our own light and see what we were made of just like we can't see stars when the sun is out or it is hard to read a cell phone when sunlight is shinning directly on it.
So some where along the way we the Spirit children decide along with God that the only way we can really see what we are made of and to become our own person is to go to a shadow land, a place where God's influence and light are not so over powering.

It is here we are able to create our persona's and learn about love on our own.

The reason there is suffering and strife and diversity is for us, it is are playing field. It gives us opportunities to help others and in doing so we learn how to love and allow our inner light to shine and grow a little larger. When we see things going wrong in the world full of pain it can provide motivation for us to help others and stop the pain.
If you think about it life is amazing, there are sooooo many ways to help others, to learn how to create and how to love. Life is about creation and love. In everything we do we create and we love, it's either on the positive side or the negative side but either way we are creating and loving.

We don't understand pain and death and all the horrible things the way God does. I don't understand why things can suck so much sometimes but for some reason it helps provide us a way to rise up and change as much as we can and help others and let are light shine to bring up others.
Now having said this, God is still very much with us helping us out and has not left us alone, he has just made it a little more challenging to find him so that is up to us to do.
Imagine that Spirit is like water. When we are with God the water is calm and clean and pure. When we come to God we get bodies that tell us to do stuff, we have urges to do things like eat or have sex and we have pain and pleasure and all sorts of forces acting on us. This is like water being in a river and sometimes full of motion and muddy. Can you see your reflection in a moving muddy river or even a clean moving river? No, but if you calm it down and clean it you can see your reflection and see God in yourself.

So, God helps us when we ask and exercise faith like Matt did with the contacts and he allows suffering and diversity and stuff like that in many cases to help provide opportunities for people to help out and make a difference. Of course it's only like this with some cases, but even when one person is cruel to another they later have a chance to learn to seek forgiveness and how to make up for there mistakes which helps them grow in love toward the injured.

Then there is the growth that people get from suffering but I think it's a tool to help people build more faith and trust in God.

Of course it's way more complicated than this but those are my thoughts on the subject.

Anonymous said...

This question has a lot of weight behind it. To be answered without knowing the parts of God plan is kind of scary. (my comment will probably leave thought holes. sorry.)

to me this question feels a lot like these questions:

1-Is God real?
2-Does He love me more than you?
3-Does God want us to hurt?
4-Does He want us to be happy?
5-What is the purpose of suffering?
6-What is the purpose of prayer?
7-What is the pupose of life?

So I ponder these questions and ask additional questions:

what good comes from trials? what good comes from caring? Should all of us bare the same trials? What does he want me to learn? Why does service make me happy? are poor people less happy then I am? do people with much riches of the world live a happier life?

I am affraid to attempt to answer all of these questions, so I wont. But I do know one reason.

How can one be patient when there is nothing to wait for? How can one be good, if there is no choice?

I met a man that who lived as he thought God wanted him to, yet he still had trials, trials he thought he could not bare- How could a man who did so much good still have trials? 15 years later he read this:

charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

So why Pray? another tough question. a question that is hard to answer, as reasons vary from person to person; experience to experience, but here is my attempt:

I was told on my birthday that my wife was dying. I did not know what to do.I was scared. I did not want to lose her. how would I take care of our two girls?I will never forget the prayer I had that night.

One could argue, I was praying to the wall that night. One could also argue they know excatly how I felt when the doctor told me I would lose my wife. They could argue that they know what I was feeling to see my wife crawling on the floor because of the pain. they could argue they know how much my wife means to me. and one could argue that I have not felt my wife love for me. and one could argue that I could not feel Gods love. I felt both.

(Sorry for any thought holes, mispellings, and grammer errors.)

Melissa Burk said...

I, too, have learned much from this discussion. Much of what I would've responded has already been put forth, but I do have an additional thought. One thing that seems to hold true, in my view, is that God does not interfere with one's agency. He may prompt, He may offer, but He does not interfere. In the case of abuse, even of innocent children, He does not interfere. In the case of starving children, well, that isn't necessarily a case of agency, so that's a tougher one. (Although it could in part be due to poor government choices, etc.) The choices of one individual can affect generations down the line. I saw it time and again while working in inner city public schools in Philadelphia. And those choices can send whole societies of people down a tough road that can be extremely difficult to get out of.

In the case of your contact, though, it didn't involve anyone else. It was between you and God. You exercised your agency to approach Him and He helped you out. It happens. I really believe it happens.

Michael Paul Bailey said...


How is it just that God would punish people for the actions of their ancestors? Don't Mormons believe that man is punished for their own transgressions, not for those of their forebears?

We also see that the scriptures are replete with examples of God interfering with people's agency. God sends an angel to prevent Nephi from being beaten by his brothers. Daniel prays for protection in the lion's den. There are many, many examples. Excusing God's inaction towards abusive situations with a claim that God does not interfere with agency stands in complete opposition to the scriptures.

So we are returned to the initial question of why God would care more about you finding your contacts than starving children in Africa, or the young girl who is crying to God for aid when she is raped, or the mother who prays for God to spare the life of her 1-year-old son.

I'm sorry, but I just can't accept a God who gets involved in such insignificant events as finding our keys or a missing contact, but fails to help those who truly cry to him for aid in their darkest hour.

Sara Allsop said...

I started reading through these comments, but had to stop after reading, "We each have a unique experience and that child would tell you that although it was hard to go through that trial at the time, now he knows what it is like to really starve. Is that something you know or may ever really get to experience? Perhaps you should envy him?" I had to stop.

Perhaps it is that I don't know what happens to us after we die, that I am still confused as to if there is a greater plan and at peace with my ignorance, but that comment made me want to weep. Weep and scream and forget that someone in this day and age could think that.

The idea of envying someone who's starving, the idea of envying a mother whose child is dying slowly and painfully, the very thought of that makes me sick. It sounds to me like an excuse to ignore their suffering, and I see that used a lot. "God has a greater plan, they will recieve their rewards in heaven, etc..." this lets a lot of people sleep better at night not having helped others, because it is god's job and because the suffering people will get less rewards in heaven if they don't suffer enough now.

I don't know if there is a god, I used to struggle with this quesiton a lot. But I do know that if there is a god and he did allow mothers and fathers to die of AIDS leaving children behind to suffer while he helped someone remember the correct question on a test, I want no part of him.