As I think about these big questions – the ‘where is God when I hurt’ sort of questions I keep on going back to this idea of return.
I humbly offer to you that suffering today might also serve as a reminder to turn back to your Divine Dad, to your heavenly Father. I know he feels distant and forever away. But I also know from experience that he’s right there. With you. Present.
It was the refrain of all the old stories. It was repeated in different ways, with different emphasizes to Jacob, to Isaac, Abraham, Joseph, Moses….I am with you. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.
Some of Jesus’ last words to his friends were a charge to go to all nations and tell people the good news of grace and a generous hospitable God. He ended that great commission with these powerful words: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end….” Whatever happens, wherever it happens be confident of this one thing: I am with you always!
In the middle of St Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome, he reassured them of the same message. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…No, despite all these things…I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
He is with us. Always.
On that dark night, eons ago, when Christ was born, he was called, Immanuel, which meant God is with us. Omnipresent. Present in all places and at all times. Always and forever. He is with us.
And He invites us warmly to turn to him in times of trouble. He’s there. Ready and eager to walk us through whatever the suffering is, whatever the pain might be. It doesn’t mean it’s fixed or finished or finalized. But it does mean you don’t have to walk through cancer alone. He is with you.You don’t have to face unemployment on your own. He is with you. You don’t have to struggle with depleted bank balances, or angry teenagers, or critical employers, or single parenting challenges, or moving across the state, or the death of a parent, or a disappointing marriage, or conflict in an extended family, or abandonment or the persuasive pull of an addiction, or an undiagnosed disease alone. He is with you in it, through it, until it’s over, embracing you with pure grace.
But even there, if you seek God, your God, you’ll be able to find him if you’re serious, looking for him with your whole heart and soul. When troubles come and all these awful things happen to you, in future days you will come back to God, your God, and listen obediently to what he says. God, your God, is above all a compassionate God. In the end he will not abandon you, he won’t bring you to ruin. (Deut.4:30 The Message)