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In Part 1, I asked the question, Where is God when it hurts? Is God up there throwing suffering at some poor person who doesn’t deserve it? And this question, Why? It’s almost a puzzle there.
The most helpful picture of God in the Bible is not of one who strikes the world and those who live in it with disaster, as if God looks down upon us and thinks, You there—you have sinned against me so I’ll shake the very earth under your feet. All of you over there, I’ll send some lightning to strike the engine of your plane. And as for you there, a heart attack during your morning commute is just what I have in mind. No—that’s not who God is.
I once heard about a grandmother trying to teach her granddaughter about how God is involved in our lives. And so, as they played in the backyard she pointed to the flowers and asked, Sally do you know who made the flowers? And then she told her granddaughter, God made the flowers. When it started to rain, she said, Sally, do you know who made the rain? And then she told her, God made the rain. Later that day the girl made a horrible mess on the living room floor, and her grandmother cried out, Sally, who made this mess? And the little girl answered proudly, God made the mess.
We need to be careful when we talk about God’s relationship with the world that we don’t end up saying that God made the mess. God made a world in which messes are possible, but God didn’t make the mess. God’s power is not in controlling every single event, or in causing disaster, nor is it the power which merely sits in a far-off throne, disconnected from our sufferings. The uniquely Christian description of God is something else: God is Love. It is love that defines God’s power, and it is through love that God’s power comes to us.
Sometimes bad things, like earthquakes or terrorist attacks or plane crashes, happen. That doesn’t mean that God willed these horrible events any more than a parent wills skinned knees or broken arms, nor does it mean God is watching them from afar. To the contrary, with love like that of a father or a mother, God sheds tears with us when lives are lost. God grieves with us and hurts with us when tragedy strikes.
God Is There With You
Jesus knew what pain was all about. Remember he was human as well as divine. A profound statement from Jesus is found in Matthew 27 as Jesus was on the cross and he shouted out, My God, my God. Why have you deserted me? Talk about pain and anguish. The Son of God felt his Father had deserted him in his hour of greatest need. But Hebrews 13:5 says, “…he has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Joni Eareckson Tada was paralysed as a teenager in a diving accident, and has never recovered. She is still a quadriplegic. It took her a long time to try and make sense of this disaster. She wrote this:
A part of the quiet rage I experienced was anger against God. Inwardly and very quietly I ranted and raved at him in my spirit. Now I think it is better to get angry at God than to walk away from him. It is better honestly to confront our real feelings and let him know this is how we feel…Far better than pasting on a toothpaste smile and going around…pretending you are not hurting.
Someone else said, “God sometimes permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves”. That’s worth thinking about too! In the last section of Yancey’s amazing book that I spoke about in Part 1, Where is God When it Hurts? we find the question, How Does Faith Help? And he points out that Christ is the only head of a religion that came down to join us and to experience our suffering personally.
When we look at how much Christ suffered on the cross we realise that he truly does understand what we go through. The Bible tells me that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. So where is God when it hurts, when your life is thrown upside down? God is there with you.