We can all be annoying at times (I for one have been told I am annoying most of the time!) While we all have our off-putting moments, we typically save our jerkiness for special occasions. It seems that it is in times of suffering and loss, those times when people are most in need of encouragement that we say the dumbest things. With this in mind I give you the three most annoying religious phrases ever spoken to me.
In reverse order:
3- “Just have faith, it will all work out.”
2- “Just trust God.”
1- “Let go and let God”
I hate cliches like this, primarily because they imply so many falsehoods about how God works.
“Just have faith”- Really? Exactly how are we supposed to do this? This is the spiritual equivalent of telling a morbidly obese patient that they “Just need to lose some weight.” The phrase implies that faith is a switch that we can flip on a whim, and that once we do, life will be unicorns and rainbows. Baloney. Faith is hard. It is hard because it requires us to believe in someone and something we cannot see and cannot feel (See Hebrews 11:1). It is hard because faith requires that we have faith in God with no clear concept of what that will mean in this life. This is why the “it will work out” part of the phrase, while an eternal truth, is a short term lie. Countless martyred Christians testify to the truth that their faith did not work out so well in the short term, as can the millions of oppressed and persecuted believers around the world. This life does not work out for everybody!
“Just trust God”- For what exactly? I have heard this said to people who have lost jobs, relationships and their health. Often what is implied in this cliché is that by trusting God or having faith we can be sure that a better job is around the corner, our spouse will soon return or our health will me instantly restored. I don't see these things promised anywhere in the Bible. Yes we need to trust God, but so often we are being encouraged to trust Him for the wrong things.
“Let go and let God”- I have NO IDEA what this is supposed to mean. I think some people say it to imply that we should quit worrying about a problem and that once we let go of our worries it will all be better. As an individual with anxiety disorder, let me just say that this is not that easy! It also implies passivity, that we need not work or expend effort resolving our issues, which is simply false.
So what should people say instead? Like so many misstatements, the truth is just a few words different from the error.
The truth is:
1- God has an eternal plan that is never changed by our earthly circumstances. When something bad happens we can be reminded, “This is terrible, but our faith in God's ultimate plan allows us to endure.”
2- We need to trust God, not that He will rectify every wrong in this life and bring health and prosperity, but that His love for us never changes and that He will give us strength to deal with our pain and loss.
3- When we see someone struggling with fear and worry, instead of telling them to “let go”, let's give them something, and someone, to hang out to. We can share how we have seen God sustain us and others through hard times, and we can reach out and “grab” them, literally with a hug, and figuratively with support, time, and encouragement.
The apostle Paul told us what we need to do- “Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NLT
We need to get involved in the pain and suffering of others, to take some of their pains and struggles as our own. Cliches actually do the opposite, serving as a distancing and degrading pat on the head. Let's bury meaningless cliches and work to truly encourage one another.
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