Push-Button Jesus

Some of you remember my friend Mikey.  Like 2 years ago he was given 3 months to live.  Today he found out his cancer is in remission!  FTMFW!! [For The Many Faceted Win, you dirty minded people that are scouring for something to judge… don’t worry, I’m sure by the end of this post you’ll have at least 5 other things].  I’m so stoked! It’s awesome.  But his FB profile has been flooded with people talking about answers to prayer, and praise for Our Powerful God.  He’s talked about how hard he’s prayed for this.  One of my other good friends wrote about feeling guilty for not believing, deep down, that God would actually save Mikey.  Don’t get me wrong, I wept huge, real, tears of authentic and ecstatic joy when I read the news, but the follow-up has left me hurting.  It seems other people have this amazing push-button Saviour that they use.  If they just push hard enough, everything will get better.

Can I have your Jesus?  Mine’s broken…

I can remember when my Jesus Button broke.  It was when I lost my cat.

 Shut up.

My wife and I had to leave the country for several weeks. It was the dead of winter, and it got away from us as we were bringing it from the car to the friend’s house where it was going to be watched.  We chased it for hours until it disappeared and we had to get to the airport or miss our flight.  We prayed.  We sought God.  We read scripture.  We prayed more.  We prayed hard.  We prayed with faith.  We believed that God could, and would, return our cat to us when we got back.  The cat did not come back.  WTF? [Yes, that F means what you think it means].

Since then, the button’s been dropped, kicked around, sat on, run over, and fallen in the toilet over the course of five miscarriages.  We believe that life begins at conception.  Alongside our beautiful son, we’ve had five babies that died.  Five.  Figurative hands up if you believe that we didn’t pray our metaphorical asses off.  One of them died at 9 weeks.  We didn’t find out until 12 weeks when we had an ultrasound that showed a very still baby with no heartbeat.  The pregnancy was at 17 weeks before the miscarriage was completed and I held my tiny, inch-and-a-half long Sayuri in the palm of my hand.  In those intervening weeks we PRAYED.  We believed that God would work a miracle and we’d go for a confirmation ultrasound and they’d be like “hey, a heartbeat… our bad”.

Seriously.  I’m pretty sure I learned in Sunday School that if you pray for something and really believe that God will do it, he will.  Unless it’s important for our discipline.  If God wants to teach us a lesson, then he’ll say no.  Because it’s not In His Will.  Real people say that.  Well meaning Christians will stand next to someone wracked with grief and tell them not to worry, because it’s Part Of God’s Plan.

To which I now respond: “Bite Me.”

Don’t tell me it was God’s plan to kill my baby.  Don’t tell the mother left paraplegic after being hit by a drunk driver that it’s her fault she can’t walk because she just doesn’t have enough faith in God.  Don’t tell the 5 year old with the dead father that if he had only prayed and believed, his dad would still be around.  That’s bullshit.  That’s exactly what you’re saying every time you credit fervent prayer to God as the reason for a person’s recovery.  It mocks and belittles the prayers of all those who have gone before, who have died or been left bereaved waiting for a God who never came.  God doesn’t work that way.  He’s not sitting up there waiting with his Grovel-ometer to see if we’ve reached a sufficient level of begging to warrant his attention.

How can I even be a Christian then?  How can I be a pastor who doesn’t believe that God answers prayer?  Well, for one thing I never said I don’t believe that God answers prayer, and shame on you for drawing that conclusion.  Nor did I deny the healing power of Christ or the reality of miraculous intervention.  I just don’t believe that they have anything to do with the force of your conviction or the number of times you say “Lord God” in a three-minute interval.

Scripture tells us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28].  It doesn’t say that all things are good.  It doesn’t say that God causes those things for our good.  It says that in them, in our time of bitter grief, God is with us, caring for us, and working in the background for our Good.  That’s what lets me be a Christian.  It’s not having some vending machine god that I can put a prayer coin in and pop out a happy day; It’s belief in a Christ who was known as the “man of sorrows”.  It’s having a God who has suffered ultimate loss, betrayal, and pain walking beside me through mine.

For anyone out there reading this who has felt abandoned by God, because you sought him in your hour of need and he was nowhere to be found, when you were battered and beaten, when you had a loved one on their death bed, when you were waiting for a miracle that never came, I’m sorry.  My heart goes out to you.  Here’s the hope I offer you, and while sometimes it may feel empty, it isn’t:  God’s heart goes out to you too.  He has compassion.  For anyone that needs a vocabulary lesson, that means “With/Alongside Suffering”.  God suffers with us.  He is the friend who sits with us in the dark when all we can do is cry.  He’s the hand that holds our hair while we’re puking.  He’s the strength in our legs that lets us crawl and the force in our lungs that keeps us breathing when we can’t even do that anymore.  He is the reminder that there is more.  There is light.  There is hope.  We are not alone.  We are loved.  Having that is more important to me than having a button to push.  That’s my Jesus.

Hopefully more Funny next time.  I’m just not feeling it right now.  Mikey, I really hope that when you read this it doesn’t bring you down.  Be happy.  Praise the God who’s carrying you through this.  I definitely am!


About Aaron Mark Reimer

Aaron Mark Reimer was born in 1980 on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and his parents promptly moved him west to Ontario. He is a pastor, a writer, a speaker, a musician, and a bit of a geek. Published works include The Art of Being Broken, Worshipping Through John: A Devotional For Praise Teams, and a short story about going to Jupiter with his dad that he wrote when he was seven. He has one wife (Vanessa), two sons (Dúnadan and Taliesin), and many cats. Follow him on Twitter as @IAmAnErrorMaker

Posted on May 16, 2011, in Christianity, God, Theological Reflections. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. My Jesus button does not work either. Thank God!

  2. Leissa Dawnn

    I think Rick Warren said something like this in “The Purpose Filled Life”–the good and bad in life are never separated. They run along beside each other like train tracks, and both are always with us.

    I have lost many things in the last three years: my home, possessions, a large part of my family, some friends, a church, and a partner. I have lost a lot of freedom to raise my children unencumbered.

    And I prayed throughout this process, oh how fervently I prayed day and night.

    God did not give me back any of those things, and did not spare me from one ounce of grief. However, I have never felt more cared for. Everything I have now is a miracle and I have no doubt in my mind it was given to me by God. Every day has become precious, time with the children has become precious… God has brought another church into my life, and friends, and an opportunity to go to university and do things I never before imagined while I lived my other life.

    I have no answer for the things that are so brutally unfair. There is no way to avoid the pain. Christ drank from the cup of suffering, and that was actually the will of God. If we belong to Jesus, then we will suffer too. All I know for sure is that when everything was gone that I thought I could depend on in life, I could suddenly see God more clearly than I had since I was a child. I know like I know like I know that God loves me, and forgives me.

    That’s all I know.

  3. Well, i do suppose that I should comment, although i am torn as to what to actually say. Let me preface my remark with a few things. First and foremost, i respect and love you aaron. you are a brother to me and you have been with my family through everything that has happened to me. i only hope that i, one day, will become the friend you are to me. Secondly, i will never begin to propose that i ever will understand what it is to lose a child. I agree with your thinking on the starting point of life, i to agree that conception is in and of itself a miracle and i would never begin to say anything condescending like ‘its all part of God’s plan’ or ‘have faith, it’ll all be ok’ or even something as natural as ‘i understand.’ No one understands, no one could ever understand. no matter how eloquent you are you will never be able to describe the immensity of your loss and have that properly resonate with anyone.

    I was talking to an english class in Denmark a while back and I was talking simply about believing God is real, that He cares, that He loves us and that we need to take a step towards Him if we ever hope to experience Him. I was interrupted by one of the teachers who challenged me with an extremely hurt filled question that relates directly to what you are saying. She asked ‘if God is so real, then where was he when i lost my baby?’ I could see the tears in her eyes and i could hear the quiver in her voice. she was absolutely hurting and what i was saying about God being real and caring for us all was clearly a painful and touchy subject for her. I was at a loss for words and I stood silent and waited on the Lord to prompt my spirit with the right words… all i mustered to say was ‘im so sorry for your loss, i cannot begin to understand that type of pain, but this situation, however tragic cannot deter my belief that God cares for us and is real. Where was God when you lost your child? The Jesus i know would have been sitting beside you and your family, weeping.’

    now i dont know if those were the right words, i dont know that God was speaking through me, i dont know what happened to that woman 5 mins after i left that classroom. i do know that she sat back down and let me finish my talk, i do know that she didnt challenge me on anything else, and i do pray that God is continuing to do a work in her life and that wherever she is right now, she is feeling blessed.

    as for your specific notes on my situation and whether or not prayer had anything to do with my prognosis… man, thats a question for Jesus, not me. Theologically speaking I believe that God does answer prayer. I also believe that my prayers have been answered. I do not believe that I prayed any differently, or any harder, or any better, or followed any sort of magic formula that made mine any more effective than yours. I believe I let God see my heart, and He worked a miracle. I believe you let God see your heart and I don’t know why one instance is different in result than the other.

    I am asked to go around speaking about where God is in the midst of tragedy. As a cancer patient, not a cancer survivor, this has been a difficult question to answer. Why does God seem inactive? Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Why can we not understand what it is God is doing, and why does it seem as though He’s actually doing nothing? Why doesn’t God intervene and stop all this terrible stuff from going on? Why doesn’t God reach out with his almighty hand and remove the cancerous cells from my body? or heal the children taken from you before they had a chance? I don’t know the answers to these questions dude. I’m paid to answer them and I have no idea, but I do believe that God works to bring Glory to His name. When people talk to me about my faith or about the reality of God in my life, they often all chime in with the same sentiments, that they are astonished with the level of faith that I show in the midst of my most dire circumstance. Maybe that’s what this whole thing has been about for me. God is giving me more and more faith as I journey through this nightmare and that faith is, in turn, encouraging the faith of those around me, granting them more faith.

    Im sure that the faith that you have shown throughout your journey has encouraged the faith of others and in that way Christ is glorified through you. When you lost a baby, let alone 5 and did not throw up your hands, call it quits and say ‘god is dead’ then you showed someone somewhere that even in the midst of horror, Christ lives, because He is alive in you.

    Walking with stage 4 terminal cancer has been the most intensely difficult time of my entire life (and i thought chicks were hard to deal with!) but at the same time it has taught me more about myself, my faith, who Jesus is to me, and why I believe in Him more than any other time in my life. Remission i believe is a gift from God. I believe that God is active in this world and that He has granted me more time. That being said, I am not cancer free, the doctors still believe that it will come back, this is simply a break for me, its a gift that allows me to spend time with the son I love and the woman who holds the key to my heart. I wont take any of the glory away from the Father who is the great Physician. I will give Him all the credit and live my life to magnify His name. I too have many things that I still struggle with, but for now, I will simply boast in all that He has done for me.

  4. I very much enjoyed your article, Aaron. You write well. Very well.

    Thank you for your authenticity.

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