Hard Road Journey – Part 2

“It’s Not My Fault!”

This is the second part of a series that summarizes the key points in Mark Atteberry’s book “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel.”  As I wrote in Part 1, we want to try to avoid looking so much at the “why” of how we got here, and focus more on the “how do we get through” these difficult times.  But before we can, we need to briefly consider the question of whose “fault” it might be, and the answer to this may surprise us and even help us to get through the difficult times.

Atteberry suggests that we may want to carefully, and as much as possible objectively, answer the question of whether it is my fault or someone else’s fault or perhaps even no one’s fault that we are in the mess that we are in.  I would suggest that as Christians, that no matter which one of these three options might be the answer, we might even point some blame at God in our anger since we can say within ourselves, “Why did God cause / allow this to happen to me?”  I will try to address that too.

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It’s No One’s Fault: I want to start with the third option and go backwards.  I think this can be easier for some, but harder for others to accept that some things just happen.  One of the toughest situations that deeply affected our family is that our first-born son, Eric, had leukemia.  We had to leave Papua New Guinea where we were doing mission work to get him diagnosed in Australia.  Once the diagnosis was confirmed, he immediately started treatment, and then as soon as we could we headed back to Canada for 2 1/2 more years of chemotherapy.

Eric’s cancer didn’t just pull us out of the village where we worked, but it caused us to have to abandon our work there.  Since we came back to Canada in February 2002, none of us have ever been back to our PNG village.  Some of our belongings were shipped back to us, but many things have been lost forever.  Was it Eric’s fault that this happened?  Of course not.  Did this hurt us emotionally, psychologically, materially and financially?  It most certainly did.  But it still was nobody’s fault.

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It’s Someone Else’s Fault: There is no question that there are bad people out there in the world who do bad things to us.  We can be cheated, abused, ridiculed and harmed by others.  We cannot always avoid these things from happening, though sometimes we do have the choice to avoid places and times where bad things are more apt to happen.

I remember a situation where I was fired from my job and how devastating that event was to me.  I was only 16 and my manager called me into the back of the store where I saw a woman crying.  She had told the manager that I had insulted her baby the day before and she wanted me to be fired.

The truth is that I had made a comment spoken out of compassion, but also out of ignorance.  Her baby had a large purple area on the side of the face, and I had thought it was either from a burn, or some baby illness.  So I had said something like, “I hope your baby feels better soon. ”  Little did I know it was a permanent birth mark.  But there was no way to explain myself, and the manager chose siding with the customer rather than let me speak.  I had the choice then to be bitter, or learn to be more careful in comments I made.  I chose the latter.

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It’s My Fault: There are the times where we must take responsibility for our own actions and decisions, and we may be surprised at how many times in whole or in part it is our own fault for the mess we find ourselves in.  This is true for me when Jill and I left Texas after living one year there to return to Canada.

We had good reasons to come back, seeing as we had lost one pregnancy at 29 weeks while we were in Texas, and now with Jill pregnant with Eric, we felt we needed the extra support of the Canadian health system to make sure we could handle this pregnancy.  The problem wasn’t coming home, it was the way I decided as to where we lived next.

I thought living in Toronto in 1988 was a smart move, since the “hottest” economy was there.  But rents were so high, we had to live in such a crummy place that I ended up getting so sick (and reacted to medicine) that I nearly died there.  And whose fault was that?  It was mine, because I don’t remember ever seeking God’s help on this decision.  I just made a decision that was “right in my own eyes”.

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It’s God’s Fault: If we can’t explain it any other way, then we may be tempted to say it is God’s fault since He either caused it to happen or at least allowed it to happen.  But let me close by giving a quote from Atteberry’s book as he reflects on Jeremiah 29:11 where God says, “I know the plans I have for you, … plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope”.  Atteberry then says on page 12:

That verse, along with countless others, simply will not allow me to picture God as a temperamental bully who beats His children.  I cannot imagine Him toying with us, inflicting pain and suffering just because He can.  Yes, I know that He occasionally disciplines His children and that His disciplinary actions can be very painful. ….But even when He takes such measures, His motivation is love and His desire is to make a better future for His people.

(See Hebrews 12:7-11)

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