“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
~Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
Joel Osteen once wrote that "When you focus on being a blessing, God makes sure that you are always blessed in abundance". Joel Osteen is delusional.
Maybe this quote is out of context. Maybe the terms "blessing" and "abundance" are used in specific ways and don't mean what I think they mean. But I doubt it. Evangelizing any message implying that our success/blessing/happiness is dependent on how good/faithful/positive we are, harms more than it heals. Here is why:
The world we live in is dangerous. In fact, none of us will ever make it out alive. The world is killing us. Car accidents, cancer, ALS, SIDS, AIDS, food additives, PETA, kidnappers, murder, time, heart failure, atomic bombs, suicide, abuse, mad-cow disease, Ebola, dehydration, drowning, overdose, and a million other variables are out there, waiting to claim a life. Death is the great equalizer. It does not care how nice you are. It does not care how mean you are. For all intents and purposes, it does not care. It is inevitability.
Lives can be lived in fear, in denial, or in tandem, with this inevitability. People like Osteen offer denial. It's an easy path to take. There is the constant excuse/explanation that bad things happen because someone isn't faithful enough. If it's "their" fault, then it's in my power to prevent something bad from happening to me. Fortunately, that isn't true. I say "fortunately" because the idea that my blessings are entirely dependent on me is just a bit too much pressure.
Another option is to live in fear. Currently, this seems to be the most frequent and the impacts are often seen most directly in children. There are all kinds of articles, books, and discussions about helicopter parenting. The common census is this: It's bad. There are two messages inherent in overprotective parenting: 1) the world is a scary and dangerous place and 2) you can't handle it, so I have to do it for you.
While the first statement is somewhat true, the second statement is not. Overprotective parents also tend to focus heavily on affirmations while minimizing weaknesses. They consistently offer choices so children feel "empowered". They tell them how great they are at whatever they are attempting. Everyone gets a trophy. Well, if your kids are such empowered, great, #winners, why are you so afraid they can't handle the world? Both messages cannot be true simultaneously, and kids know it. They may not be able to verbalize it or be completely aware of it, but they know something is off. The inherent and explicit messages lack congruence.
The alternative is to encourage your children, and each other, through the struggle. This is living in tandem with reality. There will be times we are blessed, where hard work comes to fruition and we are blessed with plenty. There will be times when hard work dissolves into nothingness while the lazy man succeeds in excess. There will be times when innocent children die of treatable diseases and evil men live to die peacefully in their bed from old age.
Celebrate the success, mourn the losses, embrace the struggle, admit when you're afraid, give when you can, take when you need. Know that a great deal of your life will occur without your permission, plans do rarely work out the way we want, and nothing lasts forever. Invest in relationships, cherish happy memories, don't miss out on making new memories, and take a chance to view the world as it is. While it may be scary, it is also wonderful and brief and full of life. Give your children, your spouses, and your self an opportunity to prove how great they really are. Let's find a friend, a spouse, a confidant with whom we can experience the struggle of life together because, in the end, that's all that will matter.
(C) Nathan D. Croy 2014