Where is God When…?

November 6, 2013

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When tragedy strikes, a question on the heels of this event involves some form of “Where is God?”

As the horrors on the nightly news bombard us, it is simple to surmise God must have wound up the universe and let it go.

Otherwise, we head down a path of unanswerable questions.

If God is all-powerful, why didn’t he stop this?
When the Bible promises God works for our good, how can bad things happen?
Why do bad things happen to good people?

Phillip Yancey has made a career of exploring these difficult questions. His pursuit stems from his childhood and early writing career. When investigating tragedy, Christians “often made it worse by offering contradictory and confusing counsel.”

God is punishing you.
“It’s Satan!”
“God has afflicted you out of love, not punishment.”

We, like Yancey, often have no idea how to respond to these statements.

In his recent book, The Question That Never Goes Away, Yancey shares stories of many recent events when he was faced afresh with these dilemmas.

Due to his lengthy history in wrestling with these issues, Yancey is often called upon to speak to grieving communities after school shootings or the bombing at the Boston Marathon.

I love Yancey’s style. He asks questions which have no easy answers. Then he probes and explores truths which help us frame the issues, but never completely solve them. One is left feeling encouraged and refreshed, yet still carrying the tension these issues bear.

One of Yancey’s pieces of advice is to not attempt to quantify suffering. “All suffering is suffering.” Whether thousands are killed in a tsunami or a single family battles with the pain of cancer; we can respond with love and support.

Let’s not minimize people’s pain.

Yancey observes that most Biblical authors did not wonder where bad things came from. “They view the world as enemy territory, a spoiled planet ruled by the father of lies, the wizard of woe. What else should we expect from Satan’s lair.”

We must remember we live on a broken planet.

More often than not in Scripture, God does not answer questions or objections with detailed explanations. There simply are not perfect answers to all of life’s issues.

But we can still find peace and hope in the midst of trial.

Frederick Buechner says “God doesn’t reveal his grand design. He reveals himself.”

“Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it, and eventually to convert it.”, Yancey says. 

This is the message of hope Yancey is called upon to present to grieving communities and families.

Perhaps we could join him. Let’s no longer be a church who gives pat answers to the unanswerable. Rather let us love and embrace people, in all their pain, and journey with them to the source of hope.

Yancey also points out a huge piece. “Virtually every passage on suffering in the New Testament deflects the emphasis from cause to response.”

Let us join with Phillip Yancey in being people of faith who respond well, personally and in our communities.

Other books in which Yancey explores these issues are:
Where Is God When It Hurts?
Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud
Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God