This episode is part of my podcast series DEAR ATHEIST… If you prefer, LISTEN NOW.
That must be the most asked question around. From Atheists to Believers, at any point in time, someone going through a hardship or immense trial is asking – ‘where is God?’. We all sort of expect Him to show up just when we need Him, only when we want Him, and feel He must not exist if He didn’t show up at those all important times. I mean, how could He – even, how DARE He – ignore us, when He knew how much we relied on Him to come through? How can He say He’s all knowing, or ever present, or even loving?
You see, there is not a living soul who has never asked ‘where are You?’ Even Jesus, at the time of His death, when the sins of the world were upon Him, causing the Father to turn His gaze for a moment, cried out – “why have You forsaken me?” You would think that Jesus would know the answer to that; but the sting of betrayal at that time, to carry your burden alone and have to face your humanity (the weakness and depravity of it) by yourself, always leaves you feeling abandoned. The feeling of abandonment is always ascribed to a person we refer to as God universally; Father, as Christians, and ‘the Force’ by the undecided. But it is a very spiritual and personal experience to realise that you depended on this Being who did not show up for you.
So, now that the trial is past, and you’re living with the outcome, you might wonder to yourself in your darker moods – where was God? Christians feel guilty about questioning God either in the present or in the past, but none can help it. Should we bury our feelings and not think about the betrayal we felt when we had to suffer alone? Do we really think that this all knowing God does not already know those thoughts and feelings we wish to hide?
For those who do not hide it, they often foster a deep bitterness, and turn away completely from believing in God, because they can’t make sense of the ‘betrayal’. They may slowly get to that point, or suddenly decide to drop the Faith. Since they could not answer that question, they conclude there isn’t a question to ask.
Oh, but there is! There is a God. He existed before your time, and will remain after you’re gone. His existence is not dependent on your belief in Him, or your experiences in life… He exists with absolutely no help nor input from you or anyone. So we know He doesn’t need us.
Problem is, we need Him. But we cannot control Him. Not even with all our religious acts, good behaviour, heart-wrenching cries, or emotional blackmail (i.e. when we say, well if you don’t do this, I won’t love you anymore). No, we are absolutely powerless, because even when we refuse to love Him, we hurt ourselves more.
This is what hurts us and scares us the most – our very unbalanced dependence on Him! Whatever we have enjoyed in this life, whatever we have gained in this world, whatever we have overcome, it is by His mercy and grace. He allowed or enabled it. Bottom line, He is totally in control.
The Bible makes many comparisons between us and God. Compared to Him, we are like a whiff of smoke that is for a moment, and vanishes into thin air in the next (Psa 102:3, Jam 1:10-11). We are said to be like ‘putty’ in His hands, so that He can shape us anyway He likes, and do to us anything He wants (Rom 9:21).
Two prominent biblical examples of this godly manipulation are Pharaoh (in the time of Moses) and Job. Jesus also said concerning a particular blind man that his blindness since birth was for nothing other than to show God’s glory, on the day Jesus would come and heal him (John 9:1-3). Just imagine!! What if he had not rejoiced at his healing but revolted at the waste his life had been all the while he couldn’t see. Would he be justified? The Bible says NO!
Where was God in all of Job’s suffering? He was right there watching. Where was He in the blind man’s life? He was right there waiting. Eventually, He did something, in His own good time. The blind man never got back those years, nor did Job regain the children who were taken from him, even though he later had more children. God did not change what had happened, but He affected the conclusion and brought about the outcome.
It may not have been what they would have wanted if they’d been given any say in the matter, but it was what God willed. So we know that God IS, with or without us, and that what He wills is what will be done. A humble man realised that when he asked Jesus for healing, saying ‘if You are willing, You can make me clean’ (Matt 8:2).
You see, God wants us to come to that point of accepting that His will shall be done, and not only accepting, but requesting for His will (not ours, with our finite reasoning) to be done! In everything we go through, there are facts that will never be changed, just as gravity cannot be overcome in the physical world. One of them is that God is God alone. Second is that only His will will be done.
There is a third fact, which I believe is the lesson behind our question ‘where is God?’. That is, aside from the fact that we need Him, we need His Kingdom! We needs everything He represents, particularly His Kingdom, which is not of this world. We need Him so bad that this world just won’t do. And if all we gain from going through suffering is falling down on our faces and praying for His perfect and noble Kingdom to come, then God is willing for us to pay that price! It is indeed a very valuable lesson to learn.
The problem is we do everything to avoid facing the reality that we will die one day. Many of us, even though we profess to be Christian, live as though this life is all there is. That is what we do when we give up on God because something in this life didn’t go well. We easily lose sight of the Home we have in Heaven, and of the fact that our life here on Earth is an assignment. The Lord has given us a mission, and we have just enough time to first realise that, then discover the mission AND finally, fulfil it. We don’t have time to love the world or to accumulate wealth that we cannot take to God’s Kingdom!
We often forget what we were sent to do, especially when we are having such a good time on Earth. We forget just what a fallen world we live in, until the evil reaches our door. We forget that life is more than food, and the body, more than clothes (Luke 12:23), until we are destitute. God, through our trials, wants us to get things in perspective again.
Many people think they pray so that they can tell God what to do. They have a long prayer list. They pray for themselves and those they remember… That they won’t die, they won’t fall sick, they won’t become poor, that nothing bad will happen…and while they are at it, they pray to get rich, or beautiful or gain something that will make their experience on Earth that much more pleasurable.
You have missed the mark if this is your approach. You want a clue on what prayer is supposed to be..? Read what Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 6:5-15.
Prayer is first and foremost about acknowledging God and our daily dependence on Him. It is not that God doesn’t know we need His provision and protection, but He wants us to know that as His children He will look out for those things for us, so we needn’t worry (Matt 6:25-34). Rather we should seek to make sure that we are fulfilling our reason for being on the Earth, by seeking God’s Kingdom.
Now, there is no absolute provision nor protection, because we are in a fallen world, and we would be unable to empathise (and thus love) if we have never lacked nor felt pain. Hence, bad things will and do happen to good people. Jesus suffered poverty too; He didn’t live out of a Palace (Luke 9:58), and He also suffered victimisation and injustice.
He said anyone who will follow Him will likewise suffer! So why do we keep running from suffering or persecution? God doesn’t want us to live in fear that bad things will happen, but by faith that when it does happen, He will be right there to give us enough strength to go through it (Heb 10:38). In fact, scripture encourages believers that all things happen for our good (Rom 8:28)! We are called, therefore, to live in expectation of Him, always aware of our dependence on Him, and always ready to leave this world and enter our Home and destiny – His Kingdom. As Paul puts it, ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Phil 1:21).
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So many questions, different answers…but one God!
Get to know him and you’ll see that He is real and forever with us every situations.
This was long but thought-provokingly gainful. Thank you for sharing, Ufuoma.
The post was aptly named, in my opinion. “Where was God?” Beautiful! I think (from recent discovery) that James 1:2-4 gives excellent encouragement for tough times. I have come to find though that one who is experiencing difficulty should ask, “Am I on the right track? What must I do? What must I know?” There is no doubt that “good” people experience bad things but we must (as those on the receiving end of these bad things, when they occur) sit and ask why these things are the way they are. It is somewhat similar to Paul speaking to God, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” (2 Corinthians 12:8).
God gave Paul understanding that enabled him endure the challenge – the difficulty – endure it with what some might call a ridiculous acceptance of what he was passing through (whatever that was). Notice what God says and how Paul responds after that. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Paul discovered that (as always) God’s hand was with him and so he “received” strength to bear the challenge, even now stating that he could go the stretch. The communication between Paul and God was helpful for Paul because he was able to receive the needed understanding for the moment. We must (well, we should) ask God for understanding, in our times of difficulty, that we may know what he would have us do.
You write beautifully. Have an awesome week, Ufuoma!
That was a long, thoughtful and brilliant addition to my piece. It adds a different dimension to the discussion, looking at what we should do during trials. I understand that the lesson is that God is right there, not only watching and waiting, but ready to help us, with the added grace (strength) to endure. And He may also, in response to our seeking communication, grant us a better understanding of the ordeal. So basicallly, we should always seek God’s face in any trial. Thanks for your contribution!! You also write very well.
I’ve read your article and I understand and agree with what it says, but I think its incomplete. A reader who’s a new Christian would (almost) get the impression that God has and is the ultimate authority and he will use His power as he sees fit, without a care for us or our opinions.
The part which would have softened your point of view would have been an experience of God’s love. God loves us infinitely and if he allows us go through suffering or difficulty, it’s not just because his will supercedes ours. I believe its also because he loves us and wants to use that suffering to draw us closer to Him. I believe that God weeps with us through our pain and holds us up (if we will trust Him through) until we taste the victory. (The Bible says in Isaiah “I have numbered your tears on a scroll”)
I believe its trusting in God’s love that can enable us submit to His will.
(Now that I have spoken lots of English, all I have to do is trust God myself, when I’m going through difficulties!)
Tunde, I am very grateful for your contribution. It doesn’t add or take away from what I wrote, but gives it perspective, I think.
My emphasis was on the Sovereignty of God, and it is true that without reference to His love, it would have been entirely misleading. However, I referenced His amazing love, even though in a tragic reflection of His sacrificial death.
I appreciate your emphasis on the love God has for us, and it is good for everyone going through a hard time to remember that God is not trying to hurt them, but that through it all, He loves them and feels their pain too. That is why it it always good to bring Jesus into it, because He shared in all our suffering and can relate, and is also the manifestation of God’s love.
The basis for my emphasis on God’s sovereignty is because that is His primary trait, and many times we try to be the boss of God. We need to first submit. That is why the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
Another thing about love is that we don’t know what love is apart from what God shows or has shown us. He is the One who defines it, and He IS love… So, we can never accuse Him of being unloving – what do we know about it? One thing that perplexes me, but also reminds me of just how unfathomable God is…is when I reflect on Job. When he and those around him were questioning God, God’s response was – and I paraphrase – ‘who in the world are you?? where were you when I made the Earth from nothing…?’ Before we can preach love to God, we must first be still, and know that He is God.
Thanks Ufuoma, I needed to read this. Very helpful indeed.
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Awww… am so glad Rita! I know it can be hard hitting, but the bottom line is we must keep our eyes, our hearts and minds fixed on the Kingdom above!
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
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Cheers my friend!
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Cheers Sister! 🙂
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The concept of God’s will seems so strange to us. I really didn’t begin to grasp it until I had children of my own. There are times when my kids ask for something and I tell them no. It isn’t because I’m mean or that I don’t care about their feelings, but because I have a plan or because I know the long-term consequences. We are like children to God. He cares for us, He listens, He loves; but His purpose is so much higher than our own. Sometimes I think I get so focused on my situation that I fail to take a step back and think “how does this help God’s purpose?” My recent difficulties have brought me to the realization that I don’t really know what’s best, so, when I talk to God, it’s more of “I think this will be good, but only you can see the long-term outcome. Lead me in the way that is best; the way that fulfills your purpose.”
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Amen Halelluyah! 🙂 I don’t have a better response. SPOT ON!
BTW, pls help me tick the like box, if you like the post 🙂 I always appreciate your insightful comments, dear.
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