MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, October 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. WORLD Radio commentator Andrée Seu Peterson on not mere Christianity, but minimum Christianity.
ANDRÉE SEU PETERSON, COMMENTATOR: There were about five minutes of new widowhood when I grasped that I was now in a special demographic. One where eyes would be on me watching to see God glorified in my circumstances. There was the blinking of an eye when I saw opportunity—a stage for God’s “power in weakness” show, a chance to prove Satan wrong in wagering that God’s children serve Him only when they’re ahead of the game.
But then I receded again into the pursuit of minimum Christianity: saved by the blood but entitled to grouse.
I don’t outright grouse, not usually. I am sanctified about it—just a well-placed sigh in certain company, just being “honest” about loneliness. Or, I say nothing at all, either bad or good. If I have known some private comfort in my prayer closet, I never let on, so nobody ever knows it. A lyric on my mother’s old LPs went: “happy to be miserable over you.” This is the idea.
Now I have received a book in the mail by a widow writing on widowhood. The title is He Said: ‘Press,’ by Patti McCarthy Broderick. Let me say that I never read books about widowhood or about the Christian life written by people whose day job is housewife. I like books by lettered authors with title like Postmodernism.
But I opened Mrs. Broderick’s testimony. She reasons very simply. She figures that when the Bible says things like “suffering produces character and character, hope,” it means that suffering produces character and character, hope.
Mrs. Broderick and I evidently heard the same well-meaning advice about grief and the necessary psychological stages of it, and how in the “anger” stage—that comes after the “denial” stage—we are allowed to be as bad as we want to be. Who would pass up such permission when it is universally sanctioned by erudite shrinks and your best friends?
Mrs. Broderick would. She passed up on the so-called “natural” stages and opened her Bible instead. She read such things as the following promise from God in Jeremiah 29: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you….and I will restore your fortunes.”
It was good enough for her. God said it, she believed it.
They say, “Write what you know.” I know widowhood, and I can tell you with assurance that what Patti McCarthy Broderick has done is not natural. The default mode of widowhood is the expert-sanctioned morbid loop of “denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—repeat.”
But God’s word stands for anyone who will simply believe, and offers a better way. “Let God be true and every man a liar.”
For WORLD Radio, I’m Andrée Seu Peterson.