A friend of mine recently shared that her daughter was angry with God. A dear friend was facing cancer and her daughter was sure God could do something but wasn’t, and she was mad. Anger is an understandable stage in the grief process. We want someone to blame. In our desperation to make things right, we begin to think of God as someone we can bargain with, persuade, cajole, or beg into fulfilling our wish list. God becomes Santa Claus, and when we don’t get what we pray for, we begin to wonder if the myth is real.
We’ve all been told God is love, not love as a forlorn romantic emotion, but a power that defies logic, money, time, and even human capacity. This Love is not a being so far removed from our experience that it can easily be forgotten, but one so intimately close to us as to be within us in every moment, every step, every ache, and every prayer. When the myth of the “Santa Claus God” begins to crumble and anger dominates our faith life, try inserting “Love” in place of the word “God.” To say, “I am so angry at Love for allowing this to happen!” doesn’t quite make sense. But to stand in the face of our greatest tragedies and fears and search desperately within ourselves for the capacity to respond in love is what prayer is all about.
The power of Love does not promise an easy road in any given situation—or should I say the power of God does not promise an easy road. Love will at times break your heart, not as a test or a punishment, but because it calls forth the very best in us, something that we have to dig deep to find and risk, without reward or guarantee of success. In the most heart-wrenching of situations, God can indeed do something. God can give us the capacity to be in solidarity with those who are suffering, to act with justice, and to walk the most challenging of journeys, believing ultimately in Resurrection.