A friend of mine recently sat in a dental office as a woman, whose child was headed to Columbia University, was complimented on being a good parent. He wondered if the kid should be left out, for having worked hard herself. The parent responded that she could only thank God. He, a Catholic, thought she had overcompensated in the other direction. While she could also thank God, he thought, her own and her child’s role were still relevant.
Whether religious or not, you have probably come upon the expression “God will provide.” It is an idea some people find comforting. On an individual level, it can be helpful. Unfortunately, it often isn’t, and on the wider, social level, it usually isn’t.
First of all, it’s statistically untrue. Someone whose nine children are starving in Haiti today cannot expect, on the tenth, God will reverse their fortunes. Sure, one of the many hard-working charitable organizations trying to feed them in God’s name may get there before tragedy, but that often doesn’t happen. For the world’s population in poverty, the notion that “God will provide” may be more an expression regarding “the strength to endure” than the physical things you need.
I have no children myself, and have been asked more than once why. I would like to have them. However, I cannot afford to do well by them. I have been told in response that no one ever “has enough” for children, a lovely sentiment if you’re in a six-figure household. I have also been told “God will provide” – as aforementioned, a statistical falsehood. Nor do I blame the people who have children despite having little. It is not, after all, money that buys happiness, but poverty can buy a whole lot of sadness.
When it comes to finding work, having children, or engaging in any of the difficult challenges of life, let’s not discredit the people who worked hard facing real uncertainty about whether they would be successful. Let’s remind the ones who succeeded and forgot the uncertainty, honor the ones who succeeded and remained mindful, and remember the ones who faced that obstacle and lost. One can do this and be humble at the same time. Whatever our affiliation, let’s stop saying “God will provide.” If you’re religious, God already provided quite a bit – let’s use it to do well by each other now, instead of hoping for more later.