Are We ‘Set Up’?

I feel so blessed to be involved with the amazing conversations you all have generated.  Thanks for the great questions – and keep them coming!

Today’s question comes from Sandra who wrote: “Aron Rolston addresses the rock that has his arm so inextricably pinned in a deep Utah canyon that he has to sever his arm with a Swiss army knife: “This rock has been waiting for me my whole life.” Really? Is this how God works? Is life just a ‘set-up’? Is there such a thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time or can I expect a trap somewhere along the way?”

I realize some of you may not be familiar with the story of Aron Rolston.  If you don’t know his story, here is a link to his Wikipedia entry: Aron Rolston.

The issue raised for me by your question, Sandra, is an issue many people raise: does God have a plan for us and – if so –why would God plan for us to experience pain and suffering?

When folks ask this question, I find many forget about the existence of an important theological concept in our faith tradition: the notion of free will.  Free will creates space for things to unfold in such a manner in which God is not responsible for every event.

In the case of your question about Aron, for instance, there is not one part of me that believes God caused the rock to fall on Aron in order to teach him a lesson.  Instead, I believe that the circumstances in the wilderness unfolded in such a way that the rock fell and Aron happened to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Thankfully, Aron was a remarkable young man who had been on a rich spiritual journey that gave him the strength and courage to deal with the events that unfolded.  In those moments of excruciating pain and suffering, Aron was able to draw upon those resources so he could do what he needed to do in order to get out.

In that way, I believe God was present and active in Aron’s circumstance: not as the cause of his challenge but as the source of his strength and comfort.

I do not believe that God is waiting to spring a series of traps upon us to challenge us.  I do believe, however, that certain things will happen in our lives that undoubtedly will challenge us.  Our goal, therefore, is to live lives of depth and meaning and acquire tools that help will help us deal with those challenges.  Thankfully, we have something else besides the tools we acquire on our own that will help us get through those challenges.  We have God’s grace to fill in the gaps!

So how about you?  What do you think?

About Pastor Craig

I'm a 54-year-old who lives in Los Angeles, CA with his black Labrador Retriever named Max. I'm an ordained clergy person in the United Church of Christ. My passions include spirituality, politics, and sports (Go Houston teams, go!). I use my blog to start conversations rather than merely spout my perspectives and opinions. I hope you'll post a question, comment, or observation for me to respond - so we can get the conversation started!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Are We ‘Set Up’?

  1. ybabb001 says:

    First of all, when I quickly glanced at the title, I thought it said,”what sup?”
    Okay, I feel like God really has no control over us– hear me out — yeah, I know, the most common answer to things gone awry or not what we want or expect, is “its God’s will”, or “there is a reason we just don’t know what it is”.
    I feel there is NO reason for a child to die. Simple as that. There is NO reason for a child to have cancer, a brain tumor, a terminal disease. NONE. Maybe the child was going to grow to be a murderer like Hitler? So why would God let him live and not another??or why would God not present many of the miracles that happen everyday to change the outcome of this mass murderer? Miracles that he/she gets credit for? I feel as though we are given tools, and until we die he has washed his/her hands of us.
    As for the quote” this rock has been waiting for me.” I feel if we love something too much– it will eventually kill is. If we are okay to die this way, then they say “she died doing what she loved.”

  2. Sandi says:

    ” I have learned that resilience can be learned. Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three. Personalization—realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word “sorry.” To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault. Permanence—remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better. Pervasiveness—this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.”

    So appreciate these words from Sheryl Sandberg’s very moving letter written thirty days after her husband Dave suddenly died. I would add her word ‘resilience’ to our being able to cope and ultimately navigate life’s rocks. Maybe I would say ‘spiritual resilience.’

    As always, thank you for your musings, Craig!

  3. Beverly Marshall Saling says:

    The Greek philosopher Heraclitus had a saying that roughly translates into English as “Character is fate.” It’s got layers of meaning in Greek, but the gist is that our essential character—our deepest nature—rides us like a person rides a horse, steering us toward certain directions instead of others. So it’s important to spend time cultivating good characters, because we want them to steer us down good paths. And in the meantime, we need to watch where our characters are steering us, so that we can defy them if they’re taking us someplace we shouldn’t go.

    So it’s possible that “this rock was waiting for me” means that he felt something in his character was riding him toward such a moment. Fortunately he had also cultivated enough strength in his character that it could steer him out again.

  4. Stevie says:

    I can hear my Dad saying, “Praise the Lord, but keep on hoeing.” I think we have free will, too, and, for me, God is there to help me through the tough stuff. And He always has, every time. And…if you go out hiking alone, you could lose your arm!

  5. ybabb001 says:

    Craig, I have a question. I value your opinion above all others, and I have a little something always in the back of my mind . My mom is Catholic– my dad was athiest . I was never officially baptized — my Mom said she did it in the bathtub. What is your opinion on baptism? I did not baptize any of my children, because of what is preached, I do not believe my children were
    Born with sin. But I do know many believe otherwise.

  6. Sharon says:

    I say “Amen” to Pastor Craig and Stevies answers. 😊

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s