Friday, December 14, 2012

Where Is God When You Need Him?

This is a reprint of a post originally written in July, 2012. It seemed appropriate in light of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. May God bring peace to all affected by this horrible tragedy.

It's a question I've heard a lot. It comes in different forms but it's basically the same sentiment being expressed: why did this happen to me? If God is so good, then why...? If God can do anything, why didn't He stop my brother, mother, father, son or daughter from dying? Where is God when I needed Him?

It's not a new question. It's been asked from the dawn of time. It was asked by Job - in the oldest book in the Bible. It was asked by King David, a "man after God's own heart." It was asked by Jeremiah, and it's being asked by many today.

The reason that the question is asked is because we're human, and we don't like pain. It's asked of Christians because we believe that what the Bible says is true: that evil is evil; that God is all good; and that God is all-powerful. The argument from some is that one of those statements must be false. Either there's no such thing as evil, as some Eastern religions would teach (evil is an illusion), or God is not all good, or God is not all-powerful. It's called the trilemma.

But when we actually look a little deeper in the Bible we find the answers revealed in the story of mankind. The Bible teaches us that evil is evil, but it doesn't belong here. The world was not created with evil; we were placed in a world without evil, but rebelled and chose our own way. The Bible teaches that God is all good - and He created each of us with freedom of choice. That freedom comes at a cost - sometimes we choose poorly and a price must be paid, often by innocent others. The Bible also teaches that God is all-powerful, but, for a time, allows us to face the consequences of our choices and to, perhaps, change course and find our way home.

So, the Biblical response to the question can be answered with three statements.

  • All is not as it should be. We live in a fallen world - a world at war. The Biblical view begins with a protest: "This is not right!" We see this as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, stood before the tomb of His friend, Lazarus and wept (John 11). Many find this an odd verse, seeing that Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. But I believe He wasn't weeping for Lazarus. I believe He was weeping for Mary and Martha, the grieving sisters of Lazarus, and for each of us who suffer pain and abuse. He wept because this was not the way that the world was intended to be. When we weep, we echo the sentiments of Jesus at this moment - this is not the way it was meant to be.
  • We are not abandoned. Part of the beauty of Christianity is that it reveals a God of compassion who enters into our suffering and becomes one of us. Jesus is a suffering Savior first. As has been said by others, Christianity has the only God with scars. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Like David wrote in his beautiful Psalm 23, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me." It wasn't just words either. Jesus Christ willingly went to the cross accomplishing redemption for lost humanity. The cross also brought about healing to broken and wounded humanity. It was and is a message of hope in a sometimes dark world.
  • He will make all things right. It sounds trite, but it is true that our perspective is limited, and God sees things much differently than we do. The world is a hard place; sometimes bad things happen to good people, but that doesn't mean that God doesn't care. He has promised that one day all will be made right. Jesus declared, "I make all things new." We long for justice - and justice will be done. We long for what the Jews call "Shalom" - the peace of God. It is the coming of the Kingdom of God into our world. There is a sense in which this Kingdom is to come - some day, heaven. But there is also a sense in which it comes now, in the victories that we can gain right here, right now.       
God calls us to live our lives in light of two very different realities. One is that we live in this fallen, messed up world, and we're to make of it the very best that we can. The second is that we recognize that we are made for eternity, and the way that we live can affect eternity. So to make the most of our lives is to help others become all that they were created to be. St. Francis of Assisi had it right when he wrote these famous words:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen 
Where is God when you need Him? He's right there with you. No matter what you're going through, He is there. The greater question for most of us is where are we when God calls us to make a difference?

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