Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I am interested in the Netflix TV series House of Cards, which you may have heard of. It became a worldwide hit on pay TV and has a gripping story-line about politics inside the White House. It’s only a story, and some scenes are not wholesome or helpful. Let me make that disclaimer.
But in the third episode its main character—Frank Underwood, a Congressman played by Kevin Spacey—gives a sermon at the church in his hometown. He’s a southern boy through and through, living and growing up in the ‘Bible belt’. Underwood is forced to visit his hometown under terrible circumstances: a young girl died while texting about a water tower that Underwood had fought to keep, and some of his political opponents are spinning it to make him look bad. In the end, he spins it back, but he still must deal with the family of the young girl, who have already told him off and made it clear that they don’t want to hear from him.
In the middle of his sermon he screams, I hate you, God, reminding the congregation that they likely have all spoken these words and that none of them would blame the grieving couple for yelling the same. He recounts a tale of losing his father—noting to the viewers, however, that he had no respect for his father, and his death was not a sore trial—and again brings the discussion back to pain: I hate you, God. Why did you take my father from me? He then concludes predictably by reminding us that we are to trust in God, even when times are tough. We aren’t asked to understand, but to trust. Kevin Spacey is a great actor I might add.
Why People Blame God
But it did prompt me to ask the question, Why do people say they hate God? I think it’s an intriguing question. Do you hate God? I’ve looked at some forums on the web to try and see what it is that people are saying. One young man said, “I hate God so much because he let my mother suffer and die from cancer”. Someone else said, “I hate God. He hasn’t given me anything—no job, no car, why doesn’t he just kill me?”; “I hate the bad stuff that happens to people.” And I think this is closer to what they mean. They want to blame God for the unfair things which have happened. They have never met God in person—so how can they hate him?
So the word ‘blame’ is closer to the truth—blaming God. The author Philip Yancey writes of being contacted by a television producer after the death of Princess Diana to appear on a show and explain how God could have possibly allowed such a tragic accident. “Could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going 90 miles-an-hour in a narrow tunnel?” he asked the producer. How, exactly, was God involved? This is a fairly typical reaction. Some people get furious and enraged at injustice or unfairness and blame God, even hate him for it. It’s a complicated matter. As Frank Underwood in House of Cards insincerely yells, “Why did you take my father from me?” It can often be repeated in real life.
Start Trusting God
In his spiritual autobiography, William Barclay, the well-known Scottish scholar, tells the tragedy of losing his 21-year-old daughter and her fiancé who were drowned in a boating accident. He writes:
God did not stop that accident at sea, but he did still the storm in my own heart so that somehow my wife and I came through that terrible time still on our own two feet.
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Barclay also tells of receiving an anonymous letter about his daughter’s death. This letter said, “I know why God killed your daughter. It was to save her from corruption by your heresies.” Barclay said, “If I had known the writer’s address, I would have written back in pity, not anger, saying, as John Wesley once said, Your God is my devil.”
Do we also sometimes want to grab hold of God and hold him to account? Don’t blame God for cancer, diabetes, AIDS, malformed babies, or any other disease or ailment that causes pain and suffering. They weren’t a part of God’s created order. Our first parents were created in a state of innocence, but sin entered the world and spoiled everything.
Sometimes we need God to come alongside and say as only God can, It’s time now to stop blaming yourself, or blaming others, or the devil, and stop blaming me. It’s time to start trusting. That finally is the choice that God puts before us. He won’t explain himself, and he won’t apologise for his actions or lack of them.
Blame me or trust me, he seems to say. Be angry, be bitter, or be at peace. It’s time to stop playing the blame game. It’s time to start trusting God.