I recently saw a posting on Facebook that read, “Never forget that God only gives you what He knows you can handle. There is no situation that you are experiencing alone. God walks beside you, always.” My initial reaction was anger — rage that anyone should presume to offer simplistic slogans to people justified in feeling that God has forsaken them. Women abused by violent husbands and told that they are worthless, pushed to the brink of desperation. Teenagers bullied for being gay, or for refusing to conform to social norms, or just for being different who see suicide as their only escape. Children all across the world dying of hunger, drinking dirty and parasite-ridden water because of senseless wars, political corruption, racial discrimination, and greedy manipulation of natural resources.
But then I remembered Viktor Frankl’s incredible book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” in which he described his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. A belief in a god of love has indeed helped millions overcome great trials and strife over the centuries. So, regardless of my personal lack of belief in a creator who oversees and intervenes in our lives, I still appreciate that many people derive tremendous strength from the love of a higher power that offers them meaning and hope.
I can’t help thinking, however, that we can be far more than passive receptors of divine love. Just as it is wrong to lay the blame for all that is wrong with the world on god’s doorstep, it is equally wrong to automatically attribute all goodness and love to him. And the fact is, few of us today are doing all that we can to spread love in the world.
If we truly want to create a culture of understanding, then we need to concentrate less on our different opinions about the existence or nature of god, and more on the everyday welfare of our brothers and sisters, and on the future we are bequeathing our children. In reality, we are all viewing the same spirit of life and love that we know by many names. We just see that spirit through different lenses, through different windows into the mysteries of existence.
Regardless of my pious preachings and my prayerful proclamations at weekly worship services, I fail as a religious person if I do not do everything I can to help that desperate and abused woman, that teenager considering suicide, or that emaciated child. All of the love for god we express means nothing to the hopeless victims of our indifference if we insist on filtering that love through our personal lenses alone.