Does God Have Favorites?

 

A friend once asked me if I thought God had favorites.  Instead of answering the question I asked what he thought, and it turned out he did think God had favorites, and the idea bugged him.  King David appeared to be one of these favorites, and David lived a less than exemplary life.  How, my friend huffed, did such a person end up a favorite with God?  I could see it got under his skin.

This idea of favorites hit a button for me also, though perhaps for a different reason.  I quietly suspected that I was a favorite of God, not that I went around bragging about it. That suspicion held for most of my youth.  He must be favoring me, how else to explain my life?  I was raised by a single mother who survived on disability checks: nevertheless I won merit scholarships to a preparatory boarding school and a nationally ranked college.  I married a man who was not only crazy about me, but made plenty of money, and we had two beautiful babies.  I lived a charmed life.  This means God loves me, right?

 

Then things unraveled.  Unlike Job, I didn’t lose everything in a day, but it happened just as inexorably.  A lay-off, a stock market dive, some investments gone bad. Then the real disasters hit. Our son was badly injured, and I developed a chronic pain condition.  The pain went from annoying to difficult, as I spent time and money seeking a solution. I had to leave work, and finally could barely get out of bed without the help of prescription painkillers. Even with medication, I lived in near constant pain.

What, I tried to figure out, had I done wrong?  I wasn’t perfect, but I couldn’t think of a major transgression.  I began to get a clue why the story of David irked my friend.  David did some pretty bad stuff, and got some major blessing. (Personally, I think David paid a high price for his sins, but that is a different story.) To a person who has tried to work hard and play by the rules only to see life go awry, someone who does wrong and still seems blessed is like salt in the wounds.  The psalmist asked, “Why do the wicked flourish?” and I wondered the corollary: “If I didn’t do anything wrong, why am I suffering so much?” 

 

Someone once said, “God has not protected us from pain. But He hasn’t protected Himself either.”  This, I think, is the crux of the matter.  He suffers. He loves every one of us deeply: many reject him outright.  Even of those who espouse Christianity, many keep Him at arms’ length, or follow Him conditionally.  He doesn’t protect Himself from these pangs.

 

I’ll admit I like the prosperity gospel better. I’m good at rules, so I like the idea that if I just do the right things I will be financially secure and have a great family life. And learning the rules of right and wrong is a valuable thing.  But the “rules” approach to life is like living at home with your parents. Mom and Dad protect you and reward you in appropriate ways.  A whole other level of living happens when we move out on our own into the real world.  This is the place where a person can do all the right things, and bad things still happen. This is where God lived when He created a perfect world, gave Adam and Eve everything they needed, and they betrayed Him.

He doesn’t want us to suffer, but He wants us to be with Him. And He lives in a place where suffering can happen. Doctors tell me I am unlikely to ever recover from chronic pain.  Barring a miraculous healing, I am going to live in this body that suffers the consequences of the fall. My hope is that I can enter into what Paul calls “the fellowship of His sufferings” as I walk with Him through a fallen world and beyond.  I still harbor a sneaking suspicion that I am a favorite of His. Aren’t we all?

Photo Credits

Sky with flowers, Keo 101 on Flikr http://www.flickr.com/photos/52193570@N04/

Rainbow, D Sharon Pruitt on Flikr http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/  

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