The Pat Answer

February 12, 2008

Do you ever get tired of those? The Pat Answer Preachers* and their followers? It’s right up there with the Power of Positive Thought people and the Worship Chorus for Every Occasion Folks.

Sometimes life is just rotten. Sometimes there are no perfect answers. Sometimes you really do have the flu.

I had a friend tell me once that sometimes the most we can do for someone who is struggling is just to shut up!  But we still think we need to have all the answers, every bible verse, we are compelled to make a solution happen, don’t we.  We think we must anoint with oil, lay hands upon and cluster around.  And what’s with the folks who insist on giving the Holy Spirit back massage while praying. I have always wanted to say, “Oh, can you work out that spot right between the spine and my shoulder blade?” Can you imagine?  I know, how un-spiritual of me.

Is the obvious need always the Real Need? Maybe she did break her arm. Do we pray for the healing of the bone or the healing of the heart when we find out he broke it for her. Can we, will we be concerned enough for her and quiet enough and involved enough in her life to find out she is being abused? Or do we give a band-aid for a severed artery and walk away feeling smug and pleased about our Good Deed.

Busy Believers. Always talking and not really listening. Always Doing and not really Helping.

Negative confession.

What is that anyway? I mean, seriously. I have a temp of 102, flourescent green snot and when I stand up the world tilts sideways. But no, no, NO! I can’t ADMIT to having a viral something or other. I must keep the Faith and only say positive things! Claim my healing! Speak out the words… Because the words are what changes things, right? Tell that to the little one with cancer or the 84 year old wife who changes her husbands diapers. If only they had more faith…

Bob* lives here in town. Five years ago his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer her Christian family descended upon their home to name and claim. But as they spoke “prophecies” and “words of knowledge” about healing G-d chose not to heal her. They said all the right words and prayed all the right prayers but they still didn’t get their Mercedes, ahem, healing. And Bob’s wife died, painfully, leaving him and his two children behind. Thanks to the Ministry of the Family, this man is now convinced that Christianity is just so much bullshit. We had started a relationship with him, been given a few opportunities to talk to him about the Lord and now he shuts us out completely. We are one of Them.

Bob didn’t need a pat answer. He didn’t need a positive thought. He needed true Hope. The kind that transcends circumstances and points toward eternity and a faithful Father who is waiting in a place beyond pain and heartache. Instead, he found snake oil and false promises.

Despite what seems to be popular opinion, we aren’t given all the Right Answers, we are only given access to the One who has the Answers.

When my friend Karrie miscarried for the 8th time we sat on the couch and cried together. And I had no words. I couldn’t pray with her, she didn’t want me to “anoint her womb” (she’d already experienced that) and so we sat on her couch and cried.

iYou know, It rains on the Just and the Unjust. It really does. How many times have I found faiths more intrinsically tied to how I walk through a valley than my desperation to find a way out of the valley.

Life has given me very few easy answers. For every obvious answer there are 15 reasons showing how difficult it is to Live It Out. Why are there so many people trying for easy instead of faithful?

*No slander intended to ministers of the gospel, merely referring to sold out proponents of the Pat Answer.
*All names have been changed.
  • Nice post. I hope when your virus completes its cycle of life in you and moves on to another host, that you fell better quickly. As to the rest most people want the quick fix.

    The quick fix means you can lie to yourself, and put on a false face for others. Whenever it looks like you are wrong, you just drop that person(s) and find someone new to wow.

    That way no one ever has to admit they don’t know anything about life or belief.

  • Welcome to my neighborhood, Michael. I believe the virus has passed on to other more amenable climates. *knock on wood*

    Quick fix? People are lazy.

  • Ugggh.

    I wrote a long response to this and then remembered the wisdom you used at my place last night.

    I won’t get drawn in, but you’re missing it here and I love you anyway.

    I love you more than any person I’ve never met.

    Don’t let religion contaminate your faith.

  • Cowboy, I don’t understand. How is what I said “religious”? I find religiosity is more likely to look for the Pat Answer than true faith which holds onto the “evidence of things not seen” in the face of all the Common Wisdom of the day.

  • I’m only responding because it’s you. I love you.

    We’re disconnecting because much of what you describe in that post, describes me, too.

    I have a “Pat Answer” for everything. It’s The Word and it never fails. Not ever. Not one, single time.

    Excerpting (and painfully recreating) my original reply: My Dad died when I was twelve. He had cancer and was killed by doctors trying to treat it.

    Prior to his move home, he was miraculously healed twice – documented by the doctors that eventually killed him.

    Who failed there? Did God “call him home?” Was it just unfortunate? Really? God miraculously healed him twice just to shock the doctors and then robbed me of my earthly father when I needed him most?

    It’s just ridiculous to propose that God chooses these things arbitrarily. I could never possibly “serve” someone like that.

    Here’s my theory that I can back up with scripture: We’re still trying to figure out what He gave us. We have dominion and authority in the earth. Nothing is an accident and He is not in control here. WE ARE.

    We better get it together and stop this silly superstition propagated in our churches.

    We have a lot to learn and it’s up to us.

  • I forgot to mention:

    Obviously, your example about Bob and his wife struck a nerve with me and is what prompted my response.

    There are no answers for him in your post but I’ve lived this. For a couple of decades. Gimme his phone number or email address and I will help him.

    I sure can’t bring his wife back, but I can accurately explain the loss in a way that doesn’t require him to hate Daddy.

  • I’m really sorry about the comment stacking (this is what happens when you get me started!).

    The summary is this: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

    You were flippantly disparaging of some scriptural things you don’t understand.

    You should understand them. They have power and they might be important to your family someday.

    HERE’S the religious tie-in (because I know you’ve been waiting).

    The religious contamination I’ve been talking about is how our enemy constantly tries to poison Truth. Anywhere there’s religious opposition is a good place to dig. There’s likely Truth there.

    Don’t paint with broad brushes.

    (Have I exhausted my daily allotment of cliches?)

  • Ah my friend, the Word is not a pat answer. It is Truth. But sometimes knowing when to speak the Truth and when to let G-d speak can be tricky. There is always Hope and while I don’t understand why G-d chooses to behave in the way He often does I can trust that He loves me and will provide for me all I need, when I need it. And He will always be enough for me when those around me disappear, fade, disappoint and forsake.

    This is true and goes far beyond the Busy Christian.

    Does G-d desire only good things for us? Of course. When things fall apart, as they often do, am I willing to place blame on broken vessels in distress or am I more willing to simply say “Thy will be done”. To me this means Adonai Elohim works out the details. And I learn to trust what I don’t see in circumstances which, in my perspective, are inscrutable. And even when things appear glorious and perfect and beautiful I cannot trust in the circumstance but in the elegant design of G-d.

    I don’t have to understand or comprehend. He is enough. That is faith. To me. That is truth. For me. It is that Thing I wish to pass to others in trials and in successes.

    To say that “He is not in control here, we are” sends chills down my spine and I sincerely hope I have misunderstood.

  • Reuben

    One of my favorite Chuck sayings is,

    “God never asked me to understand, He just asked me to believe.”

  • mike in oregon

    Now, this discussion is getting interesting. Dominion and authority…………………. yes and no, the kingdom of God is here and not yet…………….

    Ten years ago I spent a good portion of the first five months of that year with my wife in the hospital. Long story, but through out that whole ordeal, there were times (too many to count) where it was doubtful whether she was going to make it. I felt helpless, wasn’t any thing to name or claim ( I’m not wrapped that way doctrinally anyway). I spent a lot of time praying, begging God to spare her life, finally resolved that God was going to do what He willed and I might as well get behind that. She survived, God got the glory that He deserved and I learned more of the majesty and mystery of the Almighty God who is sovereign and will accomplish His purpose in the lives of all who love HIm. Heidi, I think you understand more than you are being given credit for.

  • I’m checking out of this because I don’t have the time or energy. I’m obviously getting nowhere.

    My Daddy’s not mysterious. He’s most certainly not schizophrenic.

    Claiming that He is in charge here is insulting. He doesn’t do things like this. Flip on CNN and tell me “He’s in control.” It’s religious nonsense, He’s incompetent or He’s evil. Those are the only three logical options.

    Religion always claims to have “the pat answer” by saying, “We simply can’t understand. But He’s always faithful.” Yeah. He’ll hold your hand at the funeral after He kills the person you love most and He’ll assure you that He’ll never leave you. But His will be done!

    You don’t need to understand. You just need to believe.

    Talk about bullshit. I don’t want a freak like that near me! Saying He’ll never leave me sounds like a threat if that’s who He really is. This is Bob’s problem and why you can’t reach him with this religious nonsense.

    Daddy’s not like that and I sure hope that somebody gets around to telling Bob.

    This isn’t personal. I love you dearly, Heidi and I respect you, too. As I’ve said before, I just can’t discuss this with you in this medium. I shouldn’t have tried again. I don’t know how to communicate effectively here when this stuff comes up.

    I hope you’ll re-read some of the things I said previously and give them some thought. I’ve learned a lot from you and I expect that to continue.

    Don’t be so quick to categorize and dismiss those who are teaching the Word in a way you’ve decided is wrong. It may be good to re-examine prejudices from time to time and see if they’re still valid. Or ever were.

  • We’ve been talking past each other here for years now. I just re-read your response (for the fifth time) and realized that I need to add this:

    I refuse to believe that faith and logic are at odds. This is the root of our difference on this.

    I live by faith, literally. But when faith and my understanding disagree, I want to know why. Religion’s answer (and yours it seems) is simply “Because you can’t know.”

    I won’t accept that and He doesn’t ask me to.

    I won’t check my brain at the door to go to church. He doesn’t ask me to. He’s The One that created my brain and taught me to question. I refuse to stop doing that because some freak dressed up in a frock tells me that “We can’t possibly understand Him. He’s infinite and we’re mere mortals.”

    That’s hogwash! He wants to be known. Religion teaches that He cannot be known or understood. Y’know, not really! We’re so small and He’s so big and blah, blah, blah.

    I reject that.

    I have experience to back it up but more than that, I can back it up with The Word.

  • 🙂 Ok, Cowboy. Please don’t walk away yet. You haven’t been destructive and I’m not quite as much the delicate flower as I appear to be. 😉

    To continue this discussion, it is apparent to me that yes, He wants to be known. He says so in several different places in Scripture. I haven’t said He cannot be known I’ve only said I have found I am able to trust Him even when I don’t understand. That’s a horse of a different color.

    Chemistry is mysterious to me. Not because it is un-knowable but simply because I haven’t had the training, opportunity or experience to study and learn. G-d is mysterious to me. Until I can see all the angles as He does, I’m sure He will continue to amaze, astonish and mystify. Does this personal handicap lessen the amplitude and scope of my faith? Does that diminish the relationship I have with my G-d? I don’t think so. Am I willing to settle for where I am at the expense of where I hope to be? I pray that is never true!

    Can a finite being understand an infinite Creator? Understand? Understanding implies quantification and I simply don’t see it. Comprehend according to whichever level of maturity/relationship we have grown into? I see that happening all the time. As I grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, I comprehend more and more of who He is. It’s a process. I mature and become ready for more, He gives me more. Yet, not more than I can handle. Even Moses, the most humble man who ever lived, wasn’t able to walk in the fullness of G-d. He was covered and kept, hidden and shielded in the cleft of the rock until Elohim passed by. Why? He wasn’t ready and all G-d is could not, cannot be, experienced by flesh or G-d’s Glory will destroy it.

    Faith and logic. Faith began the moment I saw there was hope outside of my pathetic existence and G-d offered me a way out of the spiraling pit of despair I was indulging in. Logic tells me, in retrospect, I would be dead had He not intervened in my life.

    Logic told me, at the moment I turned to Him, that here was the only hope I would ever need. The only strength I could ever really lean upon. I live in a constant state of anticipating the next great and wonderful thing/provision/hope and blessing G-d has for me. I look for the hidden blessings in the middle of struggles and turmoil. Logic would tell me that when something is broken it cannot be fixed. Faith gives me strength to remember that G-d fixes the broken and restores them. And these broken things? They rarely look like you think they should.

    My G-d is not evil. We live in a fallen world. A world bent on self-expression, self-determination and ruled by selfish ambition. Seeing a world in turmoil doesn’t prove His absence of care and involvement. What it does prove to me is the depth of His love for us and His desire for a true relationship based on love, admiration and commitment. Not automoton’s for Jesus. Rather friends, brothers, a Wife. Without spot or wrinkle. There is this wonderful thing called Free Will that we, human and flawed as we are, utilize, capitalize on and demolish each other with. Genocide in Somalia is not His fault, but the culmination of men given over to themselves and to demonic influence. Do we know He hasn’t intervened? How much worse could it be if He was not restraining the Enemy until the “Appointed Time”?

    I’m ok with mystery. My husband does weird things sometimes that have no explanation. I can still trust him and love him and follow him and respect him. And that’s on a very small scale. My friends are practically incomprehensible sometimes. So am I. But we still manage to love each other. In a fumbling, bumbling awkward way.

    As I am trying to show you care and friendship. Thank you for bearing with me.

    My friend, I am trying as best as I am able to not have a knee-jerk reaction to a theological expression which causes me immense struggle as I seek for common ground. I truly am. In fact, from where I’m sitting, it seems you have painted me with a pretty broad brush stroke while showing your own distaste for the expression of my faith and what you term religiosity. That’s difficult for me to hear as my “religious” background as a child has given me such a distaste for all things Man Made the very thought of appearing that way is hard to swallow. Yet, I am willing to consider your words and ask the Lord if He sees and requires change.

    Should be an interesting conversation. 🙂

  • Thank you, dear.

    Once again you’ve inspired and humbled me. We still don’t see eye to eye. You’ve left me with a lot to say and no way to respond.

    One of my favorite things about being Daddy’s kid is having siblings like you. Seriously.

  • mike in oregon

    Great points Heidi. I lean doctrinally toward the sovereignty of God. It’s a postion that does not always afford me comfort, at times it leaves me in a void without understanding. Neither does it take God off the hook, so to speak.

    I’ve gone through periods of time where I am hanging on to God with all I have, even if only by a thread. I learned a long time ago that the alternative is much worse.

    We live in a world of paradox. From what I’ve read, the Jews understood and embraced it. In Him we live and move and have our being. Far from religiousity. We are dancing with a God who’s ways are above our ways. (Isaiah 55:9) The more I study God’s word, and I mean really study, the less I’m certain about. I stopped confining my self to reading only books that I agree with quite awhile ago.

    I wrote about my wife’s experience yesterday and as it would happen, she got a phone call for our youngest son that his brother (our oldest) was having severe chest pains and shortness of breath. We sat in the waiting room most of the evening, waiting to here results. Turns out a severe muscle pull which effected his rib cage and produced cardiac-like symptoms.

    I thought, this can’t be happening to him, he’s got three kids. And of course , we prayed. Nothing worse in my life than seeing my sons suffer. The older they get the more painfully it is for me, and yet it is at times needful for them. All this after hearing earlier that day that my wife does not have cancer as what was suspected. Life comes at you very fast sometimes. I’m so thankful He is faithful and always on watch.