You may have used this popular phrase a few times yourself. Or maybe you’ve heard others say it when some unexpected miracle happens.
“It’s a God thing.”
Usually it involves some unbelievable circumstances behind that job promotion, new relationship or unexpected medical recovery.
Certainly it must be “a God thing.”
It’s a popular, though difficult to measure, catch phrase. A 2013 book, “It’s a God Thing: When Miracles Happen to Everyday People,” has spawned a Facebook page with nearly 3,300 friends.
But there are some who take issue with the phrase, or at least with how and when it is used — and when it isn’t used.
One of them is writer and Texas pastor Shane Pruitt, who recently penned an article titled “Should We Be Saying ‘It’s a God Thing?'” for Relevant magazine.
It’s always a God thing
“‘It’s a God thing’ is used in Christian culture when things unexpectedly work out the way we wanted them to,” Pruitt writes.
It usually expresses surprise at some positive thing that happens to or for the phrase’s user.
The saying is also biblically accurate, because Scripture shows that God is sovereign and in total control.
“The great things that happen in our life—it’s a God thing,” Pruitt said.
But here’s where Pruitt and other ministers part ways with the popular phrase. The catch, they say, is if unexpected windfalls are God things, then so must be those unexpected inconveniences and even tragedies.
Lost a job or a spouse?
“When things don’t go our way — it’s still a God thing,” Pruitt said.
‘It’s still about me’
But even that doesn’t sit right with Michael Sciretti, the spiritual minister of spiritual formation at Freemason Street Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va.
Sciretti said he isn’t comfortable with the egocentric theology implied in “It’s a God thing.” But he isn’t willing to agree negative things also are from God.
“I don’t get too hung up on what happens to people, good or bad,” he said. “I have concerns with theology that says everything that happens is God’s will.”
The approach in spiritual formation ministry is to focus on responding in faith to whatever happens — whether it is good or bad, or God’s will or not.
“Whether it’s good or pleasurable, or bad or not as pleasant, how do I respond from a place of the heart?” he said.
That means finding a way to remain centered regardless of the circumstances “so whatever happens I am never completely shaken or lose myself,” Sciretti said.
Another weakness of simply applying the slogan to negative events as well as positive ones is that it presumes the individual is at the center of the universe, Sciretti said.
Such thinking has a hint of Calvinist spirituality, in which all things—marriage proposals and cancer diagnoses—are predestined.
In that approach “it’s still all about me,” Sciretti said.
The challenge is learning to let go of the ego and let God take center stage. One solution is remembering the priesthood of all believers.
“From a Christian perspective we are meant to be priests to creation and we have a role in welcoming the Kingdom of God on earth and working toward justice,” he said.
From that perspective, whether it’s a promotion or a layoff, God’s influence can be increased because the ego is diminished, Sciretti said.
“Cancer? No, that’s not a God thing, but it can be a God thing how I respond to cancer,” he said. God’s will can be done in that and any other situation “if I can let God get inside of me to grow my being to be more grateful and have more compassion.” (BNG)