One of my greatest irritants in life is ignorance---so obviously I am frequently irritated at myself. Few things irritate me more than when someone says to a dying person or their relatives: "God has his plan, it is our duty to accept it." Hogwash! Bunkumwattles! No way! God does not sit around flipping a coin to decide if this is the day someone will die, some sweet innocent child will meet a horrible death, some middle aged and decent person will get cancer. It is rather shallow thinking to see the world that way, yet otherwise relatively intelligent people still do so….puzzling???
In the August 2002 edition of the magazine Filipinas Gemma Nemenzo writes a lovely and thoughtful farewell article about a dying friend and undermines her otherwise lovely statement by saying: "How does God…decide which person should get sick, which should die immediately and which one should continue living?" In the April 29, 2002 edition of Sidelines, Shawn Whitsell has a obituary on the singer Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes in which you find the following line at the end of the piece: "Yeah, she died at an early age but when your work is complete on this side, God calls you home." Lordy, lordy, lordy, how flat out childishly stupid can you be!?
This is dangerous stuff because it can help to turn a person against God. If you believe that God is the one in charge of these killings, these murders, this mayhem; then it is only a short jump from there to your getting angry with God. "Well, if God murdered my innocent daughter, then I don't want anything to do with God." It undermines the key message of God, the message of love. Our loving God doesn't go around getting involved in killing people, innocent or vicious people, any kind of people, all kinds of people die because the world is a dangerous and hazardous environment. Yes, God is all powerful, omnipotent, but he has given us free will. We elect not to buckle up the seat belt and die accordingly. We choose to smoke and get cancer. We decide to create a hostile environment that breeds vicious kidnappers and murderers. Don't blame God for what we have created. God created a wondrously evolving universe and it is up to us to encourage that evolutionary process in ourselves and others.
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner talks about these issues in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People or you can watch his videotape on this topic. You owe it to yourself to do this so that you better understand how to help yourself and others through some of life's most painful situations.
However, I think that this is only part of the answer. Yes, people say these types of things out of ignorance; however, I suspect that they also say them because they want God involved in some way. They don't want to feel that this is an uncaring universe, that God is not watching over us, that we are ultimately alone. So the real task is twofold. Step one, get Kushner's book or watch his videotape. That will help immensely. Step two, start examining how God is powerfully present and involved in the unfolding and evolving universe---then you won't feel the need to incorrectly attribute horrific events to him and can become more comfortable in the many loving and wonderful ways he is present for you.