If It Weren’t for Bad Luck… ~ The Rev. Jay Van Lieshout, OPI


“If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!”   Who has not cried this out in a fit of despair at one time or another?  How many of us may even be thinking such a thought at this very moment?   Feeling at times as if we are plagued by misfortune is really part of being human.  Things sometimes just go wrong and, though events sometimes go without a hitch ending on a happy note, we as humans tend to focus on and hold tight to those events that are less than perfect events in our lives.  Remembering when our actions produced undesirable  results can be a good thing; it is how we learn what to avoid, what not to do or to say, etc; in fact, failures can often lead to  successful and rewarding outcomes.  Yes, we view our failures as bad luck or feel we are cursed in spite of all the good we have in our lives.  Being raised in a Calvinist family I was taught if something goes wrong it was because I was a sinner and God was punishing me.  The larger the mishap, the more dreadful a child I was, for what you sow is what you reap.  From the smallest paper cut to being in pain with kidney stones, it was all part of God’s plan to punish my wickedness; God was vengeful and mean because of our sins and Jesus came to point that out to us.  What a horrible teaching for a child, and what a horrible teaching that still continues today in too many a “Christian” denomination or church.

Such misconceptions of God are not new to modern times; Luke tells us Jesus dealt with similar misguided thoughts and teachings.  When asked about Pilate’s slaughter of some Galileans as they were conducting ritual sacrifices (the implication being they might have been guilty in the eyes of God), Jesus asked if they thought the victims were “greater sinners” than the all other Galileans?  Without delay, Jesus rebuked them saying “I say to you no!  But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Luke 13:2-3)  Similarly, Jesus asked if the deaths of the 18 killed when the tower of Siloam collapsed was the result of the victims indebtedness exceeding that of the rest of the men in Jerusalem?  Again without delay, Jesus rebuked them saying “I say to you no!  But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Luke 13:4-5)  Two horrendous events: one the murder of innocent people as a result of hate and bigotry, another, the tragic loss of innocent lives as the result of an accident; in neither was God punishing the victims (and Jesus would know if He was), both were just random tragedies, examples of “crap happens”.  Yet both revealed the delicate and fleeting nature of human life as well as how easily one can suffer a spiritual death over mundane worldly things; Jesus warns to repent now, for tomorrow may not come.

So is all lost?  If we stumble and then quickly die before we can repent and ask for forgiveness, is there no hope?  To quote Jesus, “I say to you no!”    God is our father, and though He can be stern, His love for us in unchanging, unending and boundless.  Luke continues with Jesus telling a parable in which a fig tree has failed to yield fruit for 3 years.  The owner has no patience and instructs the gardener to cut it down.  The gardener knows that sometimes “crap happens” and offers to tend to the tree for a year using a little manure, a little extra attention and, hence, he is giving the tree another chance to bear fruit (with a little help).  This is how God works us in His garden, he sent the Son of  Man to be our gardener, to spare us from the saw, to intercede for us, nurture us with the Word of the Creator, cultivate our souls and help us turn the “crap” that happens in life into fruit for the Father’s Harvest.

Yes, bad things happen to me, to you, to everyone.  Part of being human and being alive is “crap happens”; this is a fundamental fact of life.  What we all must realize is this is not God punishing us, it is not some divine retribution, and it surely is not a canonical license to condemn others or withhold compassion to those suffering “because they are sinners and deserve their misfortune”.  I say to you nobody is undeserving of our compassion and forgiveness.  In fact, many of those who have suffered some of the most horrendous crap life can muster, have turn out to be our most beloved and respected saints-and one even died so that all of humanity could, in turn, live!  So the next time you feel you are getting more than your share of manure just remember, the only difference between a saint and a sinner is a saint will not sling the manure at others, but instead, they use it as fertilizer for the tree of Jesse so that it might bare the largest and sweetest of fruit.

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