Father Mark Miller is the pastor at the Resurrection Charismatic Episcopal Church in San Jacinto, Calif. Father Miller recently penned an article and in it he wrote, “One’s life is formed and moves to substantiate what one believes, or not. I find that many people, who struggle with belief in God, don’t have a theology (study of God) as much as a ‘hurtology.’ Life has kicked them in the rear and things have not made sense. All belief has consequence and leads to conformity to that belief. If one stays, practices and accumulates like-minded hurtologists, they will become bitter, without hope, and angry.”
Father Mark makes an excellent point. I have found over the years that the spiritual lives of many people are not formed by the Bible, by their commitment to prayer, or even by their church attendance. Rather, it is formed by their experiences.
In fact, many Christians barely crack the Good Book and the average time spent in prayer by evangelical Christians is a whopping 30 seconds a day (the average pastor doesn’t do much better at 90 seconds per day, which may explain a lot).
The church attendance of many is sporadic at best, some wandering into the church only at Christmas or Easter, so it makes perfect sense that their flawed concept of God is based on the only thing they know — their own experience. This is, however, the tail wagging the dog.
These people, who as Father Miller states, have a “hurtology,” (or a study of their own hurts), view God through the lens of their own experiences.
This is backwards. When one has a relationship with God — I mean a healthy, vibrant, ongoing relationship, not just a vague “belief” in God — then experiences are viewed through the lens of that relationship.
If experiences dominate one’s spiritual life then all one sees are the random problems, the negative forces, and the unfairness of life. And, of course, God gets blamed for it all. He becomes a cosmic scapegoat for a fractured life.
If the stock market goes down, it’s God’s fault (not my investment choices), if a guy gets his girlfriend pregnant then it’s, “How could God let this happen?” (not my own immorality). If someone loses everything due to drugs, alcohol, or other life choices, then it’s, “Why are you doing this to me, God?” instead of accepting that choices have consequences. If there are wars and rumors of wars, then it’s “How could a loving God allow this?” rather than put the blame on fallen, hostile, and greedy humanity.
If one knows and has some understanding of God then one can hope for a life ruled and influenced by Him and not by the “stuff” that happens all the time to every body at every level.
If we can come to believe that God’s intention toward us is good and that His goal for our life is that we, as his children, become transformed into the very image of Christ, then the things that happen are not so random and are certainly not meaningless.
Or, as the ancient Jeremiah recorded, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
If I were to be asked, my advice would me to stop focusing on the hurts, the unfairness, and the hard knocks of life. To concentrate and to dwell on these things is to become a hurtologist and, in my observation, those people are miserable and are unpleasant to be around.
Become, instead, a “theologian” a person who studies God — but more than this, become a person who seeks after and embraces God. Become a person of scripture, of prayer, and of the church. The difficulties of life will still come but one will then become the overcoming victor and not always the poor, pathetic victim.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]