Years ago a Rabbi penned a book which, at the time, was very popular, and in a sense dealt with the above question by discussing what impact there is upon a good person when bad things happen to them.
The Book of Job, a reference point for Rabbi Kushner whose faith was shaken by the death of his son, and many other parts of Sacred Scripture shed light on the goodness of God, to be sure, and His love for us, to be sure, and shine light on the whole, very human, emotional strain and confusion which hits us whenever we experience the incomprehensible, like the death of a child, or try being one of the Chilean miners or their families or an abused child still unreached by a rescuer or…………
To wonder under extreme stress if perhaps I am the one person God does NOT like should not be dismissed as merely a human reaction.
We need to recognize that within the darkness of our emotional pain lurks the same hateful deceiver who approached God and sought leave to break the faith and trust in God who is love within the heart and soul of Job.
Certainly I willingly admit that when my PTSD is triggered I often think I AM the one person God does not like – yet in truth our very existence testifies that we are beloved for we exist because Love Himself love’s us and has given us breath of life.
Many, many years ago a friend who struggled with depression and alcoholism, told me about the one word from Scripture he turned to whenever he felt not merely disliked by God, but hated by God and could feel himself slipping into the abyss of blackness which is depression or yearning to forgo sobriety and return to the bottle.
I awoke this morning totally stressed and confused by what the bishop dumped on me the other day, and his frankly callous and arrogant way of treating not merely a man, one of his flock, but a priest, one of his sons.
Since the Bishop stands in the place of the Good Shepherd emotionally, as I kept thinking, thinking, thinking it, God was doing this to me so obviously God doesn’t like me and then I shocked myself when I formed the thought: God hates me!
Just as suddenly I was given the grace to remember the Scripture my friend so loved, but it has taken until now, late in the evening, for me to truly open my being to this powerful word, this so human cry: Psalm 69!
There is, of course, the paradox that while our emotions, and the great deceiver, seek to convince God does not like us, the hunger to be loved actually urges a cry to Him:
“Save me, O God: for the waters are come even into my soul” ~ shock, extreme stress, depression, really do penetrate deep within our being and we can feel, and in a real sense are “….stuck fast in the muck….” and often we feel that this pain, rage, loneliness, chaos is indeed a massive “…tempest which has overwhelmed me.”
The Psalmist continues with blunt words about the growing strength of those “…who have wrongfully persecuted me….”, such enemies may be external in the human sense: false accusers, bigots, abusers, or the evil one who is involved in all enemy activity since he IS the essential enemy of every human being – or it may be our own emotions.
From the 6th to the 20th verse there is a mixture of real humility and almost a type of trying to convince God we are not so bad after all, that is we endure these things for Him so, the unspoken plea is, love me! Save me! Hear me! Love me!
Then, suddenly, verse 21: “And they gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst vinegar to drink.”
Now it becomes clear, the depths of the truth that we are beloved of God, for Matthew [27:34] and Mark [ 23:27] see the direct link from this Psalm to the mixture offered to Jesus on the Cross, which was refused by Him because it was a type of painkiller.
Jesus endured all to the last drop of His Blood and so in truth while the initial wail of the Psalmist and us is our own, it is Jesus who takes our wail into Himself and cries out to the Father.
In his Angelus address yesterday Pope Benedict reminds us that because of the entirety of the human condition Jesus “took the lowest place in the world ~the Cross~ and by this radical humility He redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid…..therefore, we gaze upon Christ as a model of humility and gratuity: from Him we learn patience in temptations, meekness when we are offended, obedience to God in suffering….”
The ‘lowest place’ Jesus takes on the Cross is not just in terms of societal position, but is also the lowest point in any human life – such as that into which the good Rabbi was plunged when his son died, or any incomprehensible depth of degradation, pain, aloneness imaginable, or experienced.
This IS where Jesus is because we ARE loved.
He comes to our aid not to immediately alleviate whatever we are enduring, but so that we are not alone. He Himself IS our endurance!
As I was finishing this I took a break to check the day’s mail. In it was my monthly copy of the Madonna House paper: Restoration.
It is late and I am tired so I was going to leave it for tomorrow to read when my heart was moved to glance through it and in bold print the heading of a brief and powerful piece: DOES JESUS LOVE ME?
The priest-author includes the classic lines of a familiar child’s hymn: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. We are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.”
Perhaps in this moment we don’t ‘feel it’ but if we open the door of our being where He is constantly seeking leave to enter [Rev. 3:20] Jesus will indeed show us He is real and He really loves us!