Thursday, April 9, 2015

Where IS God?

As I’ve written in a previous post, in the midst of life’s tragedies – and there are many – it’s not unusual nor surprising to hear people wondering, or even ask ourselves, “Where was God?” It’s a very good and valid question to ask, not only for skeptics but also for people of faith.

This question was raised frequently after the events of 9/11. It was posed when hurricanes Katrina and Sandy wreaked havoc in different parts of the United States. Some asked this recently when another tornado barreled through already ravaged portions of Oklahoma. It's probably often heard on bloody battlefields. This question certainly was on the minds of family members and friends after learning that a co-pilot had intentionally steered a jet carrying their loved ones into the side of a mountain in the French Alps, killing everyone aboard.

This question defies easy answers. In our humanness, we’d like for God to intervene and prevent every calamity, whether it involves a single individual or masses of people, such as the Boston Marathon bombing or a school shooting. Such tragedies do occur, however, and sometimes we can’t help but wonder, “Where was God when this was happening? Why didn’t He act to stop it?”

A student took this photo
the evening after a tornado
struck an Oklahoma town.
We can’t possibly find an answer apart from what we can see only through the eyes of faith. The atheist or agnostic can point to such grievous occurrences and declare, “See, there’s no God! How could your ‘loving God’ permit such things to occur?” Even those of us who do believe are inclined to ask “Why?” or at least, as some have suggested, “What?” In other words, what are we to learn from this tragedy?

Occasionally we do see glimpses of God in very unexpected ways. An infant, still secured in her car seat, survives an accident that claimed the life of her mother. Emergency responders rush to the child’s aid after hearing an unexplained voice that simply called, “Help me.”

In the aftermath of 9/11, we viewed a cross that somehow became fashioned from steel girders during the destruction of the Twin Towers. And recently, a student took a photo of a utility pole in Oklahoma after an F-1 tornado had stormed through town. The bottom portion of the pole had been severed, and the cross tie of the pole was suspended by wires, creating the image again of…a cross.

Such images are interesting – and I don’t believe coincidental. But lest we read too much into what they mean, I think there’s a more important question we should be asking: “Where IS God?”

Thankfully, this isn’t a question that requires speculation or supposition. Because we find the answer in the Scriptures, most notably Psalm 139, where the psalmist writes:

“Where can I go from your Spirit? When can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the seas, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast…even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:7-12).

So the answer to the question, “Where is God?” is simple – everywhere. The theological term for this is omnipresent. The Bible teaches there is nowhere we can go where God is not. He is with us during the good times (when we often don’t even care whether he’s there or not), and He’s there in the bad times, ready to comfort, console, strengthen and, when He determines it’s time, usher us to our eternal home.

If we are confident in this, that God is indeed everywhere, the question concerning where was God when some tragedy occurred might be more easily resolved. As the student commented after taking the photo of the utility pole cross, "Just found this after the tornado. God is with us."

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