Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way, yet you have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness.
Psalm 44:18, 19
The psalmist is expressing belief in what’s come to be called the “health, wealth, and prosperity gospel”—the idea that if I’m a faithful person, nothing bad will happen to me, and blessings will abound. It’s a bit comforting to know that the idea, however ludicrous, has been around for a long time, along with the idea that we can control God by our behavior. The people who propound this false good news apparently haven’t studied the scriptures very deeply. Most of God’s chosen, Jew and Gentile, passed through great trials.
I’ve had my own struggles with this notion of lifetime immunity. I had almost accepted the fact of my ovarian cancer when my bladder cancer was discovered. I didn’t have the classic profile: I wasn’t male, I’d never smoked. “Bad luck,” my urologist shrugged. But I’d altered my ways since the discovery of the ovarian cancer, radically modifying my diet and changing products I used for cleaning and personal care. Surely doing so would buy me continued good health! I felt like a failure, like a person who had to repeat a grade in school because she hadn’t really grasped the basic concepts. I may have hoped for a do-over, but it wasn’t related to having a second cancer!
Being the mature person I am, I sulked for a long time. Sulking didn’t have any effect on the reality of my two cancers, though, so I gave it up. I’ve accepted, on some level at least, the fact that being faithful doesn’t exempt anyone from trials or difficulties in life, whether I think I deserve them or not. I heard a sermon last week about Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, which show that nobody can claim special power, protection, or privilege. Not even Jesus.
If Jesus is our model, we ought to expect hardship rather than a life of ease and comfort. After all, he invited us to “take up our cross daily” and follow him, not to settle in with a good book and cup of tea, which would be my preference. Letting go of the hope of getting through life unscathed by trials may be a first step toward growing up spiritually. We do not have control, but we do have a companion for our journey, whether our way leads to a chemo room or surgical ward.