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For more years than I care to admit, I believed when something bad happened I was being punished by God. Now, I certainly believe God allows consequences and there are consequences, good and bad, for every action. But, living in a state of mind and fear that God will make sure I pay dearly for my wrongdoings or even my “wrong-thinkings,” is not what God wants for my life. Or anyone’s. Because you can’t live fully and wholly in God’s love, care and will for you in this state of mind. Again, I discovered this truth late in life, with God’s help. I still struggle, but I’m getting there.

One of the most helpful books my husband and I read after our infant son died was When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner. It was given to us by a friend and I wondered at the time how a book written by a rabbi could possibly be helpful. The more we read, the more we felt comforted. Not that I believed we were “good,” so nothing should happen to us; it was more that we also weren’t “bad.”

Immediately after our son’s illness and death, I began to try and determine what we might’ve done to deserve this. Even to the point of watching my father cry (he had never cried in my presence), and thinking to myself he may be feeling this follows the scripture from Deuteronomy, “punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Don’t get me wrong, I knew my father was a very good man and loved the Lord and his family. And I was and am very proud of him for the sacrifices he made in serving our country. But I also knew he struggled with the aftermath of fighting in World War II. He never spoke with my sister and me about the horrors he saw and experienced, but we knew in his silent times that it never fully left his mind. I have never said this to anyone before and I am sad that I ever even thought such a thing. I didn’t blame my dad for anything that happened (I was busy blaming myself); but the fact that I thought that was how everyone’s mind and thought process worked is pretty sad. My only thought should have been how this dear man was crying for his child and her family and their pain, for his little grandson whom he never got to hold, and because of HIS pain.

That scripture is one that is taken out of context and can be included in the “clobber verses” we often use. God didn’t take away our child and my parents’ grandchild - a nasty virus did. And the consequence from this was a gift of pure and indescribable love. We became closer to God and we were held up and cared for by so many - even strangers - and we have been able to show empathy and comfort others in their time of grief from this experience.

Try not to do what I have done. Don’t wallow in guilt or “what-ifs.” God has a better plan.

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Oct 15, 2020

It's so easy to ask "what did I do to deserve this?" Of course we never ask that when something wonderful happens! :) This makes me think of one of my favorite sayings: "Grace is receiving what we don't deserve; Mercy is withholding what we DO deserve." As you say, how can we enjoy the pure love of God for us if we are wondering if he's mad? I am old enough to remember when it was generally accepted that "bad things happened to bad people." Praise the Lord we got past that...and I'm sure God is happy about that, too! Thanks for a well-written post!

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