Did God Protect Me, Or What Should I Tell My Kids Tonight?

If I had died this morning, the events leading up to my death would be unremarkable. I made breakfast and lunches, kissed my husband good-bye, got annoyed at the kid who left his rain boots at school and tried to wear his sister’s boots which are three sizes to small. I took kids to school, came home, did dishes, read blogs and then changed hurriedly to make a 10:00 a.m. appointment. I drove south on Highway 6, listening to The Current, thinking about my appointment and wondering what I should make for dinner for the two missionaries and investigator family that are coming for dinner tonight. Seconds later, my life flashed before my eyes.

Highway 6 is a two lane highway. It intersects with Wellington County Road 51 a few minutes from my house. A car was stopped on either side of the road waiting to cross the highway. As I approached, the car on my left decided to chance it and cross ahead of me. It was a foolish decision. I laid on the horn, and watched him cross the yellow line in slow motion. I saw that there was nowhere for me to go, as there was also a car on my right. Adrenaline rushed through my body as I realized that the car would collide with me, and smash me directly into the other vehicle. Somehow, I managed to swerve, and avoid the collision, but I’m sure it was only by inches. It seemed almost unbelievable. The reality of what almost happened shook me to the core. And I remembered that in our family prayer this morning, I had specifically prayed for safety as we traveled. Now, not everybody in this family prays for safety. Some of the younger members pray that we can listen to our teachers, that we can have a good time and thank you for our dog.

In those moments, after my close call, I thanked God for keeping me safe, all the while knowing that there are people who are more worthy and deserving than I, who aren’t kept safe, even if they have fervently prayed for safety. The temptation to tell my children when they arrive home this afternoon about how I prayed for safety this morning and was protected is strong. It would be a great story for The Friend, and is a simple black and white tale which reinforces the idea that God does answers prayers.

But God doesn’t always answer prayers the way we might hope. Mothers die in car accidents, jobs are lost, children don’t come home at night. Which leaves me at a loss — how do I teach my children that there is a loving God who cares about them but won’t necessarily protect them from pain and loss, when I don’t even understand it myself? Did God protect me? It feels wrong to assume I was kept safe by chance, but not quite right to think it was because of my prayer that I’m here this afternoon. Is it ungrateful to even ask the question?

Comments

  1. Acknowlege the hand of the Lord in all things. I say express gratitude for your safe passage and thank the Lord. Tell your children. We thank God for the food we eat and for the good times we have. Why not praise God for the averted accident?

    It is a paridox, but I deeply believe that God answers our personal prayers, theodicy notwithstanding.

  2. Aaron Brown says:

    O.K., but then Kris’ question becomes essentially this: What does she say to her child who hears her praise God, but then turns to her and says, “So why didn’t the Lord save little Johnny down the street with cancer, or little Susie who did die in a car accident last year, etc., etc.?”

    Does she just say “It’s a mystery!”? Does she point out that Johnny and Susie weren’t LDS, as if that matters? Does she suggest that Johnny and Susie were somehow less righteous than she, regardless of their religious affiliation?

    ???

    Aaron B

  3. I think we say that we don’t know why God didn’t intervene, but that he loves them just as much as he does us.

    Theoretically, there could be alot of reasons why God didn’t intervene, but it would all be speculation.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    It is better to praise God and thank Him for all your blessings, whether He in fact intervened or not, than to act as if He did nothing. Aaron’s question is interesting from a theoretical point of view but utterly horrible as a form of approaching practical worship of our Maker. Sure, you don’t know whether it was God’s Hand that saved your life — but what kind of Christian are you if you exclude that possibility on the basis of your mortal veil?

  5. I think God always intervenes. We are required by the scriptures to acknowledge His hand in all things, the tragic as well as the beautiful. What does that tell us about God? I don’t know.

    Kris, you should tell your kids that God protected you. But next time there’s a tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, etc. that produces massive deaths, tell your kids that God chose to let that happen, too…

  6. Steve, if you thank God for all your blessings, whether they actually came from God or not, do you also consider God the source of all your trials, whether they actually came from God or not?

  7. Steve Evans says:

    Anna, while there are ample scriptures describing God as the source of all good, and commanding us to acknowledge His hand in all our blessings, there aren’t as many scriptures out there portraying God as the source of our trials. I think there are some people out there who consider God to be testing them with every difficulty in their lives, and I am in no position to disabuse them of that notion. But I do believe that, as a matter of practical worship and our relationship with God, we are better off erring on the side of thanking God than not.

  8. John Cline says:

    I’ve taken the position that God blesses whom he blesses. There is little rhyme or reason to it. We are just supposed to pray with faith and accept the situations we face.

    How else can anything be reasonable explained?

    John

  9. I’m sure it’s blasphemy, but I thank “traffic angels.” I commute over two hours a day on one of the worst freeways in America. Not a week (sometimes day?) goes by without a “what if,” a close call, an “almost” — not just to me but to dozens of commuters I watch who almost don’t brake fast enough . . .

    So I’ve developed a theory that there are beings watching over these over-bloated freeways, tapping our shoulders, nudging our wheels. They can’t prevent every accident, but they certainly do their best. See what happens when you commute too much? You start to believe in almost anything :)

    Glad you’re safe — for that, gratitude is the right emotion.

  10. Aaron Brown says:

    John — Are you the John Cline from San Marino (Caroline’s sister)?

    Aaron B

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m of two minds about this.

    The religious side of me says you assume God is responsible for your good fortune and you thank him and glorify him. And I indeed do this all the time.

    The intellectual, skeptical side of me tends to a certain Deism. I suspect that in many cases God doesn’t really care whether you die in a car accident or not. From an eternal perspective, it’s probably six of one, a half a dozen of the other whether you die today in a crash or 40 years from now of old age in your bed. It matters deeply to your loved ones in the here and now, but not to God sitting in yonder heavens. We’re all going to die, so death itself is not an evil from his long-view, eternal perspective. He probably allows the physical forces of this earth to operate without always micromanaging the results. And those physical forces will often result in the death of a mortal being who gets in the way of them at the wrong time and wrong place.

    When good fortune befalls me, I usually view in light of the former, but when encountering uncomfotable events from a distance (such as the tsunami or the earthquake in Pakistan) I tend to view it with the lens of the latter.

    I don’t think you can really convey this kind of complexity to a child. In that case I would concentrate on the former; there will be ample opportunity later in life (when life experience is greater) to gently introduce the latter.

    Oh, and you simply cannot try to introduce the latter concept to someone who is actually in the process of grieving the death of a loved one. They’re not going to want to hear it.

  12. I don’t have anything to add to the topic other than to say that I’m glad you’re okay, Kris.

  13. This is a question I ask myself. A Little over a year ago I was in a bad car accident. I was traveling south on the freeway, a car hit me and I spun out of control, I stopped in the middle of the right lane of the freeway. I began to be grateful that I was not seriously hurt, I looked right and saw a tour bus heading for me. I had enough time to think ‘Oh sh.. this is going to hurt’. I was hit and later while at the hospital I thanked God that I had survived that day.

    Since then I think of all the little events that would have changed that day. What if I would have driven with my carpool, what if I didn’t stop to get milk that morning, what if I would have taken a back road into work that day. If God wanted to generate a miracle why not just have me avoid the accident in the first place.

    I have 5 kids and we (my Wife and I) have spent a lot of time talking to them about why things happen to us. The lesson we have been trying to instill in our kids is that we do not know all the answers as to why things happen, Life just happens and God is there to help us sort through the results of life. Sometimes He may step in and provide a miracle and sometimes he lets life happen.

    The important thing is to have Faith that regardless of the outcome his love is always with us.

  14. I think you were inspired to pray for safety. I’ve had the same type of experience, more than once.

  15. D. Fletcher says:

    I don’t believe God plays a hand in someone’s death, or in saving them from it. I believe God cannot step in, because he is bound by the laws governing the universe and our free agency. As many have said before, God weeps alongside us, and is probably grateful Himself that you’re OK, to serve him another day.

    But I don’t see anything wrong in telling your children that you’re grateful to God for sparing you, if you honestly feel that. There is some paradox about good people dying and bad people living, but then, most of what we really know about God is mysterious and often paradoxical.

  16. I wholeheartedly believe that God has kept my car from breaking down (which would be a serious financial hit for us right now). I think the main concern is being able to identify when God has blessed us, rather than determining whether He will bless us in such-and-such a way at various times and situations.

  17. Trying to puzzle out how (or if) God is involved in the seemingly infinite randomness of life is my most pressing religious problem right now. It really, really bothers me, to the point that not believing in God is starting to look like the less troubling option.

  18. MikeInWeHo says:

    These kinds of conversations always take me further in the direction of Deism. They also remind me of the ending of Angels In America. Did anybody else in here see that play or movie? Suppose it wasn’t kosher for active LDS, which is really too bad.

  19. While it is difficult to see why God does not do things we think he should do, I can’t escape by saying he hasn’t answered my prayers or that he doesn’t exist. He has answered my prayers in greater than coincidental ways. He has shwon me he exists.

  20. D. Fletcher says:

    I’m very familiar with every aspect of Angels in America. Every LDS person I knew (in NYC) at the time went to see it.

    Why did you think Mormons should see it?

  21. I’m glad you’re ok. All this means is that God knew it wasn’t your time to die. If it was your time, you wouldn’t have survived. The same with Christians like myself, we do survive car accidents as we’re still needed on Earth to serve Him. Just because you’re LDS doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to survive every accident, once God determines that you’ve served Him enough in this life, He’ll call you home.

  22. Kevin (#12) wrote: Oh, and you simply cannot try to introduce the latter concept to someone who is actually in the process of grieving the death of a loved one. They’re not going to want to hear it.

    That’s interesting, and probably wise. From my own personal experience, though, this idea is the only thing that permitted me to hold on to my faith while my mother battled with and finally succumbed to cancer. The idea of a God who either couldn’t or didn’t get in the way of the seemingly random consequences of a corrupt (though at times incomprehensibly beautiful) world as a great comfort.

    Far better than believing that God could have, but just chose not to, heal my mother. (Or that he “needed her” more than we did.)

  23. Oft times, we think of “God didn’t help me” as a negative interaction from God. Why must we consider the seeming lack of response to prayer when give thanks for what appears to be a miraculous intervention?

    We should give thanks for blessings. For non-blessings, we shouldn’t say, “God didn’t bless me.”

    I like to think of angles and cosines vector classification. Two identical vectors have a cosine of 1 — the highest it can be. Two completely opposite vectors have a cosine of -1; we consider that they are as different as they can be. Somewhere in the middle is 0, and anything between 0 and 1 is on a degree of positivity Anything between 0 and -1 is a degree of negativity.

    If God is at a minimum not involved in an incident and at a maximum directly involved, then it’s a case of 0 and 1. It’s not a case of negative involvement.

    [Back to my dissertation.]

  24. If we are going to give God credit for saving us, acknowledging his hand in all things, then we have to also somehow acknowledge his hand when bad things happening as well. How can we have it both ways? You can’t say God saved us, and then say “people” or “circumstances beyond our control” caused bad things to happen as well. If you do, then you’re on that slippery slope where you have to constantly ask why God saved this person and not that person?

    Isn’t there a way we can maintain our belief in a loving God, a way we can pray and/or thank him for our lives, but not literally attribute his hand in all things?

    Doesn’t a distant-but-loving God make more sense than a puppet-master who is pulling strings all over the place? Life plays out as it plays out — that’s the purpose. The model espoused in some of the comments here just seems superstitious. It requires knocking on wood, or saying hail marys, or praying for safe delivery, or any other number of superstitious rituals. And in the end, if they don’t work, we just say “it was meant to be that way,” or “God had other plans for this or that person.” Well, if “it was meant to be that way,” then why perform the rituals in the first place?

    I don’t know… to me, it just doesn’t add up. Either you credit him for everything (good and bad), or you credit him for nothing. Crediting him for nothing doesn’t mean you don’t love him or he doesn’t love us… and it doesn’t mean we’re not grateful to him for our lives and blessings.

    If I’m wrong, someone please explain how you can have it both ways?

  25. He’s not a tame lion.

  26. Rosalynde says:

    Kris, I thank God too that you are safe! I can’t bear the thought of your children left motherless. I am so, so glad to be able to look forward to more of your posts.

    I’ve had the very same questions, though not in such a frightening context. Although I of course don’t know, I suspect that God probably didn’t intervene. Nevertheless, I think it is proper and becoming to thank him with special fervor for your life, and to renew your commitment to serve him as if he had intervened. To reshape chaos into meaningful order, and to give the glory to someone else afterward, is a central quality of the human and the humane.

  27. anon for this says:

    I’m quite confused about it all. If God is going to do what He is going to do, and my prayers hae no effect, what is the point? What is the point of praying for safety? Praying for safety doesn’t mean you’ll be safe. Praying for spiritual answers doesn’t mean you’ll get them. Praying for health or healing doesn’t mean you’ll be healthy or healed. Praying for ANYTHING in particular doesn’t mean that it’ll happen. It might. It might not.

    Who is happy, who is successful, who is healthy, who is safe – none of it seems to be related to prayer. It all seems random, and certainly not predicated on righteousness as we define it.

  28. anon for this says:

    So I guess my question is, other than expressing gratitude (for what God may or may not have given you), what is the point of prayer? More specifically, what is the point of asking for anything in prayer? Lately it seems like an exercise in pointlessness to me, like throwing pennies into a fountain and making wishes.

  29. C.L. Bruno says:

    #25 Yes, MW, that is an answer I could give to my children and they would understand. Thank you!

  30. Anon for this, (#27-28)

    Just a thought from the Bible Dictionary (LDS) under Prayer.

    Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”

    I don’t know the author of this Post (Kris) but too am glad that her life was spared today. Further I don’t know if she was kept safe as a result of prayer or not and don’t think that information is always readily available to mortals.

    A close friend whose faith I consider a mountain to my mole hill, recently lost his twelve year old son to cancer. This after successful treatment and a remission of over 2 years. His answer to prayer shortly after his son died, was that he was a missionary on the other side; not an uncommon take at all.

    Not that mine are unique, but I pray each day that my children (and others) will be safe and I would never want to lose any of them. I can’t imagine what other’s feel who have suffered such a loss. My will and God’s have been at odds probably way too often but I think he knows my heart. The lesson I need over and over is that the fight for eternal life should receive more effort than the fight for or preservation of, mortal life. To me that is the constant struggle.

    The question would be, had Kris died or been seriously injured today, could that have been accepted as a “blessing”? What previously unknown domino trail would have been urged on? What Christ-like qualities emerge as a result of a blessing/tragedy as Aaron mentioned hypothetically in #2? Personal righteousness as a marker for mortal preservation shouldn’t receive much press for a couple of reasons. One, all drug dealers would be dead. Two, acceptance of God’s will is the hallmark of personal righteousness which includes all vicissitudes of life including what we might consider pre-mature death.

  31. MW and CL,

    Would you elaborate on your “tame lion” comment and concurrence, please. Very interested in your take.

  32. Johnna Cornett says:

    “Not a tame lion” is a repeated and discussed phrase from C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series.

    MW and CL could add more.

  33. Johnna is right in my reference, of course. To me, the point is God is a person not a vending machine. As a Person, he has the freedom to answer or not answer. The trick is, and I think the challenge of our existence, is to recognize when he is answering and when he is not. The hard part is the question of why he is answering and why he is not answering.

    I beleive there are things God does not do with Prayer. He does not usurp Agency. (Even with Paul, Joseph Smith, Alma, and the Sons of Mosiah, he did not usurp agency.) He does not take away the moral neutrality of the world.

    Kris’ story reminds me of another. A friend recently was on a road trip to her wedding in Vegas. She had received a blessing from her Father just before that she would be safe. On the trip, she was cruising along at a very high speed when she felt a prompting to slow down. As she got her car down to under the speed limit,one of her tires exploded. As she was already slowing down, she was able to get her car under control, and did not have a wreck. A tire change later, she was on her way. She and I believe this was an answer to that blessing.

  34. how do I teach my children that there is a loving God who cares about them but won’t necessarily protect them from pain and loss

    Maybe you could teach them that what God protects them from is the permanent consequences of pain and loss. At the end of the day, the dead are resurrected, justice is served and mercy is exercised. At least I reckon that’s at the heart of the Good News: pain and loss don’t last.

  35. Anon For This (#27 & #28):

    I generally agree with you, though I still think prayer is efficacious for the following reasons:

    1.) Prayer is an excellent way to count our blessings, to remind us of everything we have to be grateful for. Sure, you can have gratitude for your blessings without prayer; but like anything, it will not happen with any kind of regularity unless it is scheduled or becomes a habit. Praying daily can completely change a persons outlook on life.

    2.) Prayer brings people together, be they couples, families, congregations, or nations. It is a formal ceremony where we quietly, soberly, and reverently reflect on our blessings or resolve to do certain things better.

    3.) Most importantly, I think we can get answers to questions via prayer. Same with meditation or any variety of focused or “centering” excercises. Where these answers come from — God, ourselves, some spiritual field, etc. — is impossible to say, and really isn’t that important, in my opinion. They may not come directly from God (or whatever), but indirectly from God in the sense that he created the circumstances (our bodies, minds, the universe) wherein we can find the answers out for ourselves via concerted effort. And it may all be a trick of the mind. Whatever it is, it works, and has worked for centuries for people of all religious persuasion.

  36. One more thing… when you say, “what is the point of asking for anything in prayer,” — it depends on your definition of “anything.” We need to match our requests with the appropriate instrument.

    For example, I wouldn’t use surgical instruments to fix a car, or automotive tools to fix a patient. I wouldn’t use the yellow pages to look up the definition of a word.

    Likewise, I see Prayer as a “spiritual” instrument. Therefore, I don’t see it as being very effective in literally finding keys, getting a job, fixing a car, delivering someone safely to work, and yes, healing the sick. For those requests I would actually look for the keys, take my car to a mechanic, drive safely to work, and take myself to the doctor.

    Prayer is an instrument for “spiritual” needs, which could be answers to questions, patience, comfort, love, forgiveness, gratitude, etc. We’re matching the request with the right instrument.

    So, sure, praying for comfort and patience so that one, via their own efforts, may find their keys makes sense. Praying for patience that one may find the right job; paying for calm to deal with sickness or death makes sense… but praying that God will help us find a job, save us from crashing our car, and/or healing our dying sister doesn’t make sense. Of course, I realize I’m flying the face of much LDS exegesis with some of these comments, but that’s is how I see it…

  37. Kris, I’m so glad you’re okay.

    I think kids can understand that it’s hard to know exactly what God is doing. You can explain that and still be thankful and praise God that you’re safe.

    I thank God for things I know he doesn’t do for me. I don’t know why I do, since I rarely think that he intercedes in things. Who knows the answer?

  38. Jon in Austin says:

    Re 36:

    You’re also contradicting Amulek as well.

  39. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 20 Yeah, but you and your NY-based LDS friends are hardly representative of the American church as a whole. Or maybe I’ve been inactive so long that I didn’t realize Kushner plays are being performed at the Stake Center…. : )

    My sense is that most LDS did not see Angels In America. That’s too bad because the story is filled with much to do about Mormons, not all critical by any means. The story comes to a very curious conclusion in the final scene, when the angels reveal that God has disappeared and they can’t find him.

    Also, it’s just a tremendous, epic account of the late 80s/early 90s in America.

  40. #36

    Also big problems with Alma 34. Pray over your crops and fields etc.

    #39, Mike is right. If you drop the movie title to the average LDS in the Corridor they are not going to be familiar with the movie

  41. Mike, I saw the HBO version and was pretty bored. I suppose this reflects somehow on how uncultured I am. I do remember a few scenes that may have upset the average Utah Mormon.

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