letting God off the hook

i stopped blaming God
this month’s synchroblog is a fun one–it’s called “life unfurling” and is centered on the things that we’ve let go of in our faith along the way and ended up finding freedom.  i have a  bunch of them, but this is the one that came to mind this month.  you can check out the other contributions at the bottom of this post, and i’ll add more as they come in over the course of today.

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when i hurt my back last year and ended up barely being able to move i had some people who said “maybe God is trying to teach you something” (yeah, really helpful).  i did my best to avoid those comments and stick with safe people in my circle–i was definitely desperate for any kind of help i could get and didn’t mind asking for prayer for relief.  one of my more cynical friends said “why would i pray to God to heal you when there are other people sure that he’s doing this to you?”

i don’t agree with him on one level but i see where he’s coming from on another. 

years ago i pretty much blamed God for everything.  really, i had him set up as some kind of puppeteer, controlling the universe, and doing a pretty cruddy job of it i must say.  somehow he was making kids get abused, people starve to death, and yanking jobs right out from underneath people.  he sure made a lot of bad $*!^$(!) happen to me, too. i could go on and on about how ultimately i had a theology that was set up around putting God on the hook for absolutely everything. i remember a dear friend bringing this to light one time when he called out the moments we say things like “oh, i almost got in an accident but God protected us, if we would have been one car closer, we would have been toast, we are so blessed” without thinking through the person-who-did-crash’s intersection with definitely-not-being-blessed-by-God.

this typical kind of thinking wasn’t that hard to embrace; it really was what most of the teaching i had been hearing for years was centered around–God does this, does that, wants this, likes that, doesn’t like this, and really does that.  everything in the universe pretty much somehow stemmed from his direct doing.

i was letting go of this for quite a few years (working in recovery ministry really helped me re-think so many things about God) but it all came to a head about 5+ years ago when i saw the ministry i had poured myself into thrive while i got the crap kicked out of me.  i didn’t understand it, why God would “allow” that kind of stuff to happen and somehow he must be punishing me and blessing them.  umm, yeah, then i realized how self-centered and forming-God-to-think-just-like-me that really is.  i had this weird shift that came over the next few years where i let God off the hook and put responsibility where responsibility lies–with people & with real human life here on this broken earth.

people hurt people.  people use people. people abuse people.  people do a crappy job of loving other people. people build stuff that i disagree with but other people love.  people are flawed.  and i am one of those people, too.

in the same way, there is sickness, death, pain, and brokenness in this one precious, real life we have to live. backs break. cancer forms. jobs disappear. weird unexpected twists happen in our journey that we would have never dreamed of.

the shift that happened in me is that i am trying to let go of blaming God for everything that happens here. sure, i am annoyed that often oppression seems like it’s winning, people are hurt in all kinds of horrible ways, and life can be painfully brutal.  but i don’t think God’s up there orchestrating it all.

the thing that i think God promises is to be with us in the muck and the mire.

and that love & hope & peace & joy & freedom are still available now, in the midst of all the stuff we wish wasn’t happening.

it’s helped me a lot to let God off the hook. it’s also rocked my world because God was such an easy scapegoat.  now, without that, i am left in the tension of so many “i don’t knows” and “yeah, that really sucks” and “you’ve got to be *#&!^!*!’ing kidding me’s”. the mystery of God-at-work-in-a-wild-and-broken-world continues to amaze me.  and confuse me. but i don’t think i am supposed to have it all figured out. yeah, letting go of blaming God has helped me free me, free God, free having-to-have-it-all-have-to-make-perfect-sense-when-it-really-never-does.  i don’t have to make God make sense to me in order to trust God.

what about you, what are you letting go of and finding freedom in when it comes to faith?

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ps: i wrote a little post for the refuge blog from our saturday evening conversation at the refuge & the story of hosea & how hard it is to receive God’s love. it’s called always running.


life unfurling for other synchrobloggers so far (more coming):

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Great post Kathy! Just as God answered Job’s questions with more questions, I don’t think He answers all of our questions. I don’t think the Bible is meant to do that. Sometimes, time and life experiences sort of help us partly figure out a few things.

    I’ve been learning to let go of the idea that everything I need to know about God and life is communicated to me through the Bible and the church. I’m coming to see the Bible as a record of some people’s experiences with life and God and a short record of Jesus’ life. Also, I’m coming to see how really messed up (what we commonly refer to as) the “church” is.

    If someone digs up some ancient manuscripts that prove that parts of the Bible are forgeries, that won’t affect my faith. Understanding that so much of the church is about money, power, who’s right and who’s wrong and a lot of other unsavory things is at first unsettling, but ultimately freeing.

    Following Jesus is freeing – walking with Jesus, not worshiping the Bible or the “church”.

    • thanks, sam, when i think of a free faith, i think of yours. love hearing how letting go of just the bible & church as the only ways to experience God is so transforming. really pretty.

  • totally love this. and i totally love synchroblog. this month’s topic “hooked” me. LOL sorry, couldn’t resist that perfect shot!

    Amen on all the counts of your post here and not blaming God for the shit of life. It rains on the good and bad, I read that somewhere in an ancient book. When a tragic car accident took the lives of my friend and her daughter as well as another passenger, God was not on the hook for that, but it saddened me how there were many in my sphere of life who did blame God for their untimely deaths. This betrays our view of God more than anything else. Many do see the Creator as a Grand Puppeteer or a Director with a script to stick to. This deeply saddens me. And this is one reason, I choose to blog and write outloud about my own processes in getting untangled from these dysfunctional filters.

    Many blessings to ya Kathy!!

    • thanks, pam. i am looking forward to reading everyone’s posts. there is some great stuff here. i love the thought of “getting untangled from these dysfunctional filters…” that’s a great way to describe them. hope you had an awesome birthday, my friend. i

  • It is freeing to realize that God is not orchestrating all the suffering in our lives. At the same time it’s frightening to think of how much freedom we truly do have – freedom to either do good or do harm to ourselves or one another in this fallen place. It’s much easier to blame God than to be free, I guess. Thanks!!!! 🙂

    • “it’s much easier to blame God than to be free..” oh so good. thanks, ellen, and i am looking forward to reading yours & everyone else’s posts this weekend…

  • Kathy- this is so cool because it really touches upon how we have lives within Life, if that makes sense. It has been freeing for me to accept that the Bible was fulfilled in 70 AD and that we aee all living out Jesus establishment of the New Covenant. What I still get stuck in and am working through is how Gods love & grace accepts me even when my fears tip the scales as opposed to faith and that being able to be one who is fruitful and that will have Him say, *well done thou faithful servant* is NOT linked to a somehow sin-free, everything figured out state of being. Thanks for always blowing fresh air on your carnival my friend!!!!!!

  • “the thing that i think God promises is to be with us in the muck and the mire.”

    ah yes… and learning to be content with that… so much to let go of.


  • Wow. Letting God off the hook. Interesting idea.

    My wife and I struggle with this all the time. She is always asking, “What about the poor children whose parents starve and torture them? What about the young girls who get kidnapped and raped?” etc.

    We are trying to make sense of life and God and theology, and what we experience doesn’t always fit with what we’ve been taught, or what we think the Bible says. .

    • thanks jeremy, you two are definitely not alone in this quest, that’s for sure. it is interesting when somehow the scales fall of our eyes and all of a sudden what used to fit, doesn’t. peace to you & your family during this time, too.

  • Kathy. Beautiful as usual. I remember at one time feeling just like that. I remember praying for fair weather and that god would bless me by not letting me get a ticket when a cop pulled me over for speeding. 🙂 As if somehow God would stop the much needed rain so that i could wash my car… or that he was okay with me driving dangerous speeds on the highway and would just give me a free pass.

    I have experienced great peace from knowing that when I hurt, God is hurting and that when I need God he will never leave me, and even when it feels like he is nowhere to be found, he is generally right beside me. We are never alone in our suffering, but suffering is part of the journey. 🙂

    • thanks, john, oh i have my share of those moments, too. it’s kind of funny, really, glad we can laugh at ourselves 🙂 but i, too, value that “great peace” from knowing God is with us always…peace to you from colorado, my friend.

  • I love that – he doesn’t promise that it’ll be easy, but that he’ll be WITH us. Good thought, Kathy. I see this a lot where I live in the South – people sort of putting God on the hook in an unfair way. It can be a shortsighted way of looking at the world.

    • sorry jeff for the late response to this, somehow i missed some on this post. thanks so much for sharing. yeah, keeping him on the hook is easier. letting him off requires a weird kind of trust that is often scary.

  • Hey there Kathy–
    Love this–
    I actually believe God IS the mud and the muck that we came from and grow back into. Not a very lofty God-ology but boy does it work for me. Keeps me grounded! My new website is ‘finding ground’ which is where I posted for the synchroblog from…maybe my next site will be something like ‘In the Muck with God’ or something like that…

    THANK YOU for all the work you are doing on expanding and deepening the life of the synchroblog. Much appreciated!

    • thanks, beth, i am always glad to hear from you here…i love your thinking, it always challenges me to consider more deeply…

  • Thank you for this post, Kathy. The past few years I’ve been going thru a “conversion” of sorts. I found myself wrestling between two extremes: of emerging from an extreme “calvinistic determinism” on the one hand (where God is indeed blamed for everything) to the other end where I felt despair, wondering if God is there at all, and if its all random, and if we’ve all been left to our own devices (a deism of sorts). I’m now coming to see it as a partnership, where we are co-creators with God. I came across a recent quote from Rohr who said that “God is not looking for servants; God is looking for images” (who reflect God in the world). I find that very hopeful!

    As to your comment about God “being with us in the muck and mire” – my thoughts went back to something Jurgen Moltmann said when I heard him in Chicago a few years ago. Note the following Q&A:

    Question: “People still feel a sense of disappointment when we tell them that God is with them in their suffering – kind of like God being with us in the quicksand, but He can’t help us and pull us out – can’t really help us, other than being with us in it.”

    Moltmann: “I can trust that the God who suffers with me and bears with me, will also bring me to resurrection. He is the resurrecting God, the joyful God – who will fill all in all in the end – we have to trust this. A theology of the cross must end in a theology of the resurrection: how much more is grace than sin . . . how much more is the resurrection than the cross? The God who cannot be with you in suffering and death cannot bring you to life. I believe in the God of Jesus.”

    • hey aram, sorry for the delay on responding, but oh that moltmann, he rocks. love, love, love, the imagery. a few years ago i remember a conversation we had at our house of refuge where we were asked what’s our “one thing” that we hold on to in our faith that brings us hope. mine was “God restores”. i could switch that out to say “God resurrects” look forward to seeing you next month!

  • Love this, kathy! I bit the bullet and “publicly” unhooked God when I proposed that our church not use Warren’s book for our Purpose Driven Life campaign in 2003. It energized those in our congregation who were tired of God getting blamed for everything … and it enraged those who built their faith on that premise. It was the beginning of the end of pastoral ministry for me there … but the beginning of a longer journey. The journey that made my post today (so very late) a reality.

    Yes, in the mess that we call life, God has moved in — not just into the neighborhood, but into the middle of the chaos that is MY life.

    Thanks for all you do, kathy, to encourage and enrich our lives.

    • thanks, peggy, always great to hear from you. wow, that’s a wild story, but i can see it so clearly, even know, the arguments, the defending, the “but, but, buts” peace to you, my friend, in the free & beautiful journey you are on!

  • totally unrelated, but i just logged in to WP to see if I had any WP clutter lying around. I know I’ve played around with WP in the past when I thought about breaking up with Blogger and get a new platform for my blog. So I just logged in and there I am with the exact same template as you for my WP play-around-blog. You and I have some kind of crazy synchronicity going on. And I think that’s cool!

  • Wow! How did I end up HERE at 3:07 AM, 4-5 years LATE?! Wish I had had this 5 years ago when it seems to have been written. Would I have been at a place to accept it then? Nah, probably not. Am I at that place now? Hmmm, We’ll see tomorrow. But I’m certainly not sure tonight. One thing is for sure–SOMEBODY has to be let off the hook, HIM! THEM. or ME! Definitely too many hanging on this hook. GREAT article.

    • thanks for taking time to share. better late than never 🙂 this truly has been one of the most transforming things i have ever done (and need to always keep doing as it’s never “finished”, that default i have..), letting God off the hook. peace to you!

  • I want to buy your book please I can’t find it and it has been a lifesaver to me please reply to me as to how I can buy the book letting God off the hook


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