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How do I process my grief?
Does suffering have any meaning?
Do we live in a random chaotic universe?
Is it time to re-evaluate my understanding of “God”?

This book is for anyone who has suffered a loss – of safety, of one’s home, of health, of a loved one or a relationship, or of one’s faith … and found themselves asking, “Why?” And then wondering, “Who am I asking?” and hoping they were not alone.

traces of hope


What do we know about what pleases God? We might as well be sacrificing the first born child or burning the first sheaves of wheat, reading the signs of rising smoke or success in battle. But more important than what pleases God is: Why do we feel the need to please god? Is it because we are hoping for reciprocity? In human terms how often is gratification of someone else pure gift? The norm is surely tit for tat, quid pro quo, back-scratching. Certainly in business and politics. So here lies the problem: our view of God assumes that God is as self-serving as we are. If we look at the bible there seems to be ample support for this view all the way back to the Patriarchs. Serve me, worship me, obey me, follow me and then and only then will I …

And that is where contemporary Christian faith has it all absolutely wrong. Just as the Christmas Story has lost sight of the Christian Story, the Easter Story has lost sight of The Cross.

From the point of view of God, the life of Jesus was Absolute gift. We can do nothing to deserve it; we can do nothing to equal it. We can simply accept it as Absolute Grace, Absolute Love. As Jesus was always trying to teach, the best metaphor for God was not king or judge but parent, and parents don’t love on a quid pro quo basis. Wise ones anyway.

The life of Jesus was Gift but what about his death? Did the Cross please God? Did God need a death – another sacrifice? Is the Christian God to be measured by the standards of the pagan priesthood with their high altars and animal bloodletting? Or was Jesus the Ultimate Jewish Paschal Lamb? To me, any attempt at an interpretation of the Cross after the fact that makes it God’s intention, paints God with a pagan brush. And that is just bad theology.

aztec god

We simply don’t know what pleases God. But as a mother who lost a son, I can say unequivocally that the death of an innocent child is not pleasing to a parent, and that is the metaphor Jesus pressed us to use – parent – again and again.

So stop trying to please God with prayers and petitions and fasting and novenas. We don’t have a clue what pleases God. But we do have a clue what pleased Jesus. Let’s stick with what we know.

More about that in another Easter reflection. But if you want a hint, Matthew 25:40 seems a good place to start.

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Traces of Hope

From Faith to Doubt to ... Hope? A search for meaning after tragedy and loss.

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

Michelle Lesley

Discipleship for Christian Women

John Paley

Philosophy, nursing, research