Let’s Make a Deal!
God is not in the bargaining business
When she wrote her classic treatment of human grieving, “On Death and Dying,” Elizabeth Kübler-Ross listed five stages of grief. One which has always fascinated me is bargaining. We realize time is running out. We cant stop what appears to be inevitable. So we play Lets make a deal with the Almighty.
Lord, if only you spare me this fate, Ill do anything you say. Ill give up smoking. Ill stop yelling at my wife (or nagging my husband). Ill go to church every single Sunday for the rest of my life. (We probably shouldnt be promising that last one. The unforeseeable gets in the way sometimes, and then guilt skyrockets.)
I was reminded of the classic bargaining-with-God technique when listening to the wrenching stories coming out of Greensburg, Kansas, a town of 1,200 with a current population of 0, following its unlucky encounter with a high plains twister.
One woman, in an interview broadcast nationally, said, When I was in the middle of all that wind, I said to God, Lord, if you just save my life, Ill … Ill … Ill stop whining!
Maybe for her that promise represented a major concession.
Obviously God spared her, because we heard her tell about it.
But others died in the Greensburg tornado. Surely they were praying for deliverance too. Is God fickle? Does God only hear the prayers of certain people? Do only certain prayers get answered? Does bargaining work but only for some?
Im inclined to believe that bargaining with God never works. This woman was fortunate, but theres no reason to believe God made a deal with her. (Although, if shes since given up whining, God probably wont complain about that.)
But why do we need to bargain with God in the first place? God has already saved our lives. Those of us who are baptized and who havent turned our backs on God already have our names written in the Book of Life.
Our prayer shouldnt be, God, if you save my life, Ill … , but rather, because youve saved my life, Ill … Because God has saved our lives, we are free to thank, praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true!