After coming off the worst year of my life, I've reached the point that I feel there is no God as we know it. There's a creator — someone or something that created the universe — but good people suffer, and bad people make out.
Religion always gives us a reason or a way out for everything. Frankly, though, the problem is that people are bad, and the nice ones have to fight to stay nice. I lost my job, my money and my mom. My wife lost her mom last month. That's life. But after all we did to help our moms, all the sacrifices we made, and all our prayers to God, we thought we'd have some of the hardships taken away.
Instead, it's obvious there are no miracles, favors or grace. There's something out there, but its job isn't to care or help or support. It just sits there and watches. I know because I tried doing it your way, priests, rabbis, ministers and elders. If you do get some breaks, it's luck, not God or anyone hearing your pleas.
People died in the mouths of lions while begging to their God, and he sat there and watched. Stop blaming the devil or bad people and start asking God to take care of us now — not selling a pipe dream that we're going to be with him later. Most of us want help now. We cry, we suffer, and we get no help!
-- J., via email
I'm so sorry for all the hardships you and your wife have suffered in the past year. My natural instinct is to say, "May God comfort you," but obviously God has not found a way to reach you and you haven't found a way to reach God.
There's nothing wrong with crying out in despair, and agony and even anger at God. This is not only normal, but it's also a sign of a real faith that still lives within you. If you really didn't believe, you wouldn't care about God and would not be so angry.
So let's try to examine more closely the source of your anger. You believe that God is in some way responsible for protecting you from loss and death. Why do you believe that? Judaism, Christianity and Islam do not teach that belief.
The great Abrahamic faiths of the West all teach that God is with you through your troubles. They teach that God gives you strength to not be crushed by your burdens, but God does not promise to give you a life free of troubles. The choice religion offers is to go through life with all its bumps and bruises together with a loving God, or to go through the gantlet alone in a cold, unfeeling universe in which the meaning of life is just that it eventually ends.
That's the choice: a life of comforting love with troubles, or a life of no comfort with the same troubles. In the 23rd Psalm, the suffering Psalmist is still forced to walk through "the valley of the shadow of death," yet fears no evil, he says to God, "for thou art with me." You seem to have latched onto the antireligious — actually, the magical — belief that religion is an insurance policy against bad stuff. You pray and petition God when you're in need, and God pays you off for your prayers and sacrifice by keeping death away from those you love forever, and by making certain nothing bad ever happens to you in life. That's magic, not faith.
I don't want to be harsh or judgmental. Perhaps all you wanted from God was, as you say, to "have some of the hardships taken away." How do you know God didn't do exactly that for you last year? You and your wife are still alive, apparently in good health and living in a free country with a way to find food and shelter.
I know you're bleeding from your soul, but if you'd turn away, just for a moment, from your exquisite clarity about what God has allowed to be taken from you and focus for an equal moment on what God has given you, you might achieve a more balanced spiritual assessment of your life. You both had the love of your mothers for many years, and that was a true gift that you also didn't deserve. Perhaps losing your job will open up new opportunities for better work.
Finally, reread the Book of Job and know this: You are not the first person to cry out to God from the dung heap, and you won't be the last one to be redeemed.