[Before you read this, can I just point out that 'forgo', means to go without, whereas 'forego' (which is a word I'll be using later) means to go ahead of]
Yesterday, I spent just over an hour on the ‘phone, talking life insurance with some broker type person. Ironically, I almost died of boredom.
Talking life insurance is always a fun subject – people never quite know how to deal with ‘the inevitable’, and I tend to retain a fairly lighthearted approach throughout such conversations with insurancy people. I suspect my gags make some of them squirm a little, as they’re perhaps not used to people with a relaxed approach to their own demise… But anyway, I digress slightly.
One thing that struck me (again and again and again) was one phrase which the lady at the other end of the line kept coming out with. It was this:
She said it so many times it moved beyond the comical through the absurd all the way to the downright tedious. God forbid. God forbid that you need this insurance. God forbid that anything should happen to your kids. God forbid that you and your wife die together. God forbid. She said it so many times, I was moved to tweet as we were talking:
I’m currently talking with an advisor about life insurance. If she says ‘God forbid’ once more, I’ll die.
— Nick Parish (@Longingtobeholy) November 26, 2013
(Incidentally, I wouldn’t have been covered for this particular eventuality, as the insurance wasn’t yet in place – this would have been a wonderfully ironic way to go)
God forbid. The more I thought about it, the more it troubled me. Because, the fact of the matter is, God won’t forbid these things. God won’t necessarily save me from these things. I have Christian friends whose children have died. I have Christian friends who have suffered or are suffering ‘critical illnesses’, another policy which my insurance broker was hasty to add ‘god forbid’ to. And God didn’t forbid these things from happening to them. So it doesn’t seem right to be hearing ‘God forbid’ all the way through a ‘phone call. Yes, of course, there is a sense in which we should be praying to God for protection, praying for safety, praying for His shelter and care. But ‘God forbid’ seems a bit demanding – it feels more like we’re squaring up to God and saying, ‘Don’t you dare…’ Or, ‘do you have any idea what I’ll do if you let stuff like that happen?’ It also suggests that we’re using God simply as a bit of an insurance policy (the old ‘spare wheel rather than steering wheel’ view of God).
So I wondered what an alternative might be to the ‘God forbid’ motif. And I thought maybe ‘God forego’ might be a good prayer. Yes, we pray for God’s protection of our family, His blessing on our loved ones, their safety and health. We can pray this because we know He cares, and we know He can do all things. But, fundamentally, we pray requests, not demands. And maybe praying ‘God forego’ is a request that, whatever troubles, difficulties, struggles and suffering may come our way, God goes before us in all of it, and is able to wait and meet us in any suffering rather than giving us a blissfully incident-free road to heaven.
And, again fundamentally, we can know from His Word that He does, in a very meaningful way, forego. He has gone before us and suffered the most tremendous loss and the terrible anguish that comes with it.
So, while a life insurance policy can arguably be a sensible financial provision for the benefit of my boys, my far greater concern should be for their journey with God through this life. Not simply for a smooth ride, but one where, whatever happens, we journey together with God and, ultimately, to God.
For another article on prayery stuff, check out this month’s Christianity mag interview with Pete Greig.