Months ago, a good friend recommended I watch the Showtime series Ray Donovan. (Actually, what he said was, “I can be your Ray Donovan,” and when I asked him what that meant, he told me to check the series out. If you’ve seen it, and you have any idea of what I do for a living, you’d know why I was slightly concerned about his comments and offer.)
But the series hooked me, and now I find myself 4 seasons into it. In one of the last episodes of season four, Ray Donovan (played by Liev Schreiber) is talking with a Catholic priest. Ray is cynically asking the priest if he thought another character is going to change his life. When the priest replies that he hopes so, Ray sarcastically disagrees, and adds, “God didn’t fix his problems; I did.”
Faith actually is a backdrop in the series, with various characters—including Ray—drifting in and out of belief (or, at the very least, a desire to believe). But the character’s comment betrays where his thinking is off-base. Not only that, but I think it says something about what we think about God as well.
First, a little more context. Ray Donovan is a “fixer,” employed by various wealthy and high-powered people in Los Angeles to address problems and situations like accidental overdoses, murder, etc.
(You know: everyday life stuff.)
So when Ray tells the priest, that he—not God—fixed the problem, it’s entirely consistent with his role in the show, and also entirely consistent with how we view God sometimes.
But what I would tell Ray (and anyone else) is this:
God is not a fixer.
There is always a temptation to look at God and expect Him to be some sort of cosmic Ray Donovan, and when our problems don’t get “fixed,” we go looking for a more earthly “Ray”.
(And, just like the series, all sorts of mayhem ensues.)
But over the years, I have found that God is not a “fixer”. Rather, God is more like a faithful partner and empathetic friend.
As I read the Scriptures, it’s difficult for me to find a consistent vision of God fixing His people’s problems, or always miraculously extracting them from a crisis. (You can even see this in Jesus’ life: see Gethsemane.)
But what you CAN see, over and over again is His promise to be present in the midst of the suffering. What’s more, the overall Biblical story is one of redemptive suffering, which means simply that, if nothing else, our problems are doing something, something good in us.
Problems and suffering—if we do it faithfully and with clarity—has the opportunity to actually make us better people.
That’s why God is not Ray. He wants something better for us. For me.