In order to be admitted to the private school, she had to catch up on all the shots that were required. A Tetanus shot was required, as well as one for Polio, and several others. Her parents took her to a doctor to perform the vaccinations. Once there, she was shocked to find out that the process involved a large needle puncturing her skin. She also didn’t like that it hurt.
When she got out of the doctor’s office, she said to her parents, “Mom, Dad, I’m sure what just happened is not what you would have wanted to happen. That man in there… he hurt me.” She went on to describe the syringe and how painful it was.
The little girl was dismayed to find out that her parents were fully aware of what was going on, and in fact they were in on it. They didn’t phrase it this way, but the conversation essentially came down to this:
GIRL: That doctor stabbed me.
PARENTS: Yes, we know. We paid him to do it.
The little girl felt betrayed. “I thought you loved me. How could you bring pain into my life on purpose?”
The parents tried to explain that they were aware that the shot caused short-term pain, but that they also believed that it was a good idea for her long-term good.* Being a third-grader, she didn’t see it the same way that her parents did. She could not imagine that anything could happen later in life that would make her current pain worth it. She demanded her parents never do such a thing to her ever again.
Six months later, they took her back for her second dose. The doctor again punctured her leg and administered the vaccine. This time, when she was reunited with her parents, she was livid.
“Mom, Dad, the first time this happened, I thought you just didn’t understand the situation. After that first round of shots I told you that I didn’t like them. I asked that you to please not ever put me through that experience ever again. And I thought we had come to an understanding. Yet, you’ve done it to me again! Purposely paying someone to stab me with something. This is unacceptable. The first time it happened, I overlooked it. But this time is much more upsetting because I had specifically requested that you not put me through this again. You seem to not be listening to me, and I’m offended.”
The parents again explained that, while they knew that the shots caused pain, they still believed that they weren’t doing any “harm” to their child. In fact, all of the pain was actually for her long-term good.
She forgave them again. But when they sent her in for her third dose, that was the last straw. She officially decided that her parents didn’t truly love her, and she would not trust them anymore.
One sad by-product of this decision was that, for the rest of her childhood, she interpreted nearly everything that her parents did as untrustworthy. When her parents gave her a bedtime of 9:00pm (when the other kid’s parents let them stay up until 11:00pm) she assumed it was because they did not love her. When her parents refused to buy her a cellphone for her 13th birthday (even though all the other kids in her class had received a cell phone on or before their 13th birthday) she believed that it was because they wanted to harm her.
After years of interpreting most of her parent’s decisions as capricious and cruel, she eventually ran away from home. She fell in with the wrong crowd, ended up living on the streets, and spent much of her adulthood in even worse misery than she had experienced in her parent’s home.
End of story.
I’m aware that this story is not the feel-good story of the year. But I’m telling it anyway, just in case there are some people out there who can relate to it. Particularly, I wanted to relate it to our spiritual lives – our relationship to God.
It seems to me that there are people who have had bad things happen to them in their life and they get upset at God for allowing it/causing it. Then, there comes a point where it is explained to them that God allows/causes pain in our lives for our long-term good (see Gen 45:4-5, Gen 50:20, Rom 8:18, Rom 8:28, and Heb 12:7-11.) However, they disagree. They ask God to fix painful situations, or to stop certain bad things from happening. When He says, “no,” they determine that He is cruel and not to be trusted.
From that point, it becomes easier and easier to view every hardship as a way that God is being unfaithful to them. Each suffering adds another brick to the wall of distrust until the person walks away from God altogether. And the worst part of it is that “leaving God” doesn’t make their life any better. It often makes things worse. In fact, abandoning God completely is an effective way to ensure that your eternity is not a good one.
I tell this story as a warning. If you have gotten to a point where you feel you are beginning to lose faith in the goodness of God, you may need to go back several steps on the path you are travelling and rethink some things. It seems to me that once you have interpreted pain in your life as “God’s cruelty” to you, it will shade future situations to the same effect. Once you put those lenses on, you might just start seeing everything that way. And that will have a negative effect on your spiritual life (see Mark 4:16-19, 1 Cor 15:1-2, Heb 2:1, and Heb 3:12-14)
I would encourage you, if you have started down the path of charging God with wrongdoing, to meditate on passages like Romans 8, or even notice the principle found in Jonah 3-4. Pray to the Father. And, if possible, go back to the point where you began to not trust Him, and see if you can repent/re-decide what you believe about that situation. I think that is the best and only way off the path you’ve started down.
*Note: This illustration runs on the idea that vaccines do more good than harm over the long-haul in a person’s life. If you don’t believe that could be true of any vaccine ever, you will have to change the illustration for this story to make sense to you. You can replace vaccines with orthodontics if that helps. Anything that hurts in the short-term but helps in the long-term should make the point.