It is easy to love God when He blesses you.
So what happens when the blessings slow down? What if they seem to stop and your prayers are unheard (which means they are either a temporary or permanent no). Many people hold the paradigm of 2 Nephi 1:20 “Insamuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land;” When one is trying hard to receive a certain blessing, and it does not work out, that paradigm is violated. They lose trust in that paradigm, that belief structure, and they also lose trust in themselves. Who was that person that occupied their body a few moments ago, who could be naive enough to believe in such a promise as Lehi puts forth? This is why betrayal cuts so deep, because not only do you lose trust in the person you made the agreement (or social contract) with, but you don’t trust yourself anymore either. Danger and chaos could come from any direction, the places you thought were safe could house the next betrayal, the next heartache. You cease to trust your senses that told you what was safe and what was not, so now you consider all places and people as possible perpetrators of betrayal. In this case, the perceived betrayer is God.
“God I trusted you” is the cry of the hurt, the lost. The tragic part is that they wish they could trust Him, but their experience and their spirit are in disagreement. This is where the godly power of agency comes into play, where you can use the power of your inner god to consciously and deliberately choose to act as if you did trust Him. This is where it ceases to be blind faith, and turns into active faith. Either that, or you give in to nihilism and rework your paradigm view to explain your situation.
Common Paradigm Examples
- “I am not righteous, that is why I am not blessed.” (Could be true, could not be true.)
- “God picks His favorites.” (Not true, though it does appear on the surface to be. This idea arises from the harsh truth that not everyone is blessed equally on this mortal sphere, regardless of how ‘good’ of a person they are.)
What happens when a person feels like they cannot succeed in a system (specifically the system Lehi proposes)? They destroy the ideal they were striving towards.
Cain makes a sacrifice, and God rejects it for whatever reason. Cain feels he cannot please God (get blessings) no matter what he does, so he rebels. The new paradigm is might makes right, that brute power can get him what he wants. He kills Able, the brother who is good and is blessed for it, the very thing he wished he could be, but now abandoned the effort (or the half effort he gave, after all he did make a sacrifice). The very thing that Able was, the good man who received blessings was what caused him pain, the existence of Able cast a shadow on him, thus what Able stood for became a symbol of his pain, to Cain, an unreachable goal. No matter what he did, he would not please God (I believe he did want to please God, and when that love (in the form of acceptance) that was extended to Able was denied to him, he was hurt. He wanted to please Him, he wanted His attention, His affection, His approval. It was not given. What next? Cain switched from focusing in God’s affection, to getting His attention, and what better, more terrible way to do than than to kill the thing that God likes, what Able was, the good man. That’s what God blessed, so that’s what Able would destroy. He thought doing that would relieve him from his inner pain of inadequacy, but in doing so, destroyed the goal of what to become, and then rapidly degenerated as a result. I will go more into this psychological phenomenon in another article.
When our paradigm is compromised, we seek to change the way we view the world so that we can feel like we’re in control. “The righteous are blessed.” You are striving to be righteous, but you are not blessed, there is unexplored territory in your worldview. “God picks His favorites” is your new view that you created so that you can feel in control, like you have a grasp on the universe, even if the view gives you pain. After all, your soul can deal with pain, but it does not want to feel like it does not have control. People with coping mechanisms that are harmful to them who know they are harmful, keep them because they’d rather be in control of their pain. “As you look at many people’s lives, you see that their suffering is in a way gratifying, for they are comfortable in it. They make their lives a living hell, but a familiar one.” – Ram Dass
This is when you travel to the ultimate hell, which is hopelessness, meaninglessness (which is nothing matters because nothing will help your situation). It takes a near miracle for you to reemerge, and you cannot do it alone. Only the peace that the Atonement of Christ can bring is the power to lift you out. Alma recognized this when he was experiencing in a dream what Cain experienced in real life, but unlike Alma, Cain never (to our knowledge) reached upwards again. We even put this in movies, but fail to articulate it in our speech. Simba, in Disney’s “The Lion King” goes down a path of thorns following the monkey to the lowest patch of land, where he finds a pool. Looking into the pool he sees himself, but doesn’t know what to do. Then the image of his father (Christ, God, your potential, however you interpret it) appears to him first in the pool (which is when you actually realize the legitimacy of the ideal, the goal you abandoned). Then after Simba sees his countenance in the pool changed into his father’s, his father appears to him in the sky to remind him who he was destined to be, what his potential was that he was choosing to throw away because of his pride that stemmed from his naivety and refusal to accept responsibility for his own existence and failures (or lack of blessing in Cain’s case).
Cain, or Alma (Simba) are the two possible paths to take once you’ve descended into your hell of hopelessness and meaninglessness. Choose Cain’s path, and you will hate God, because you can’t see him in you, and because you don’t see any hope of becoming what He is, or what you believe He wants you to be.