Where is God?
By Dr. Dave Currie
In Las Vegas on October 1 a lone gunman, motives still unknown, opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers…58 people dead – 546 injured. The deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in US history. Where was God… in Las Vegas?
How was it fair for the people who lost their lives, the grieving families, or the injured?
I once gave my previous congregation the opportunity to choose the topic of my message to them. The overwhelming vote of the people centred around one of life’s biggest questions for so many Christians. Their choice for me to speak on was: Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Types of trials we face
Hearing the hurts and tragedies of countless people in my role as a pastor, teacher, and counsellor over 40 years, I have come to realize that most of life struggles, hardships and calamities fit into four categories.
Assaults: being wronged by others
I can see in my mind the faces of the 300+ sexual abuse and rape victims I have counselled over the years. Every one of them in his or her heart wants to know; “Why did God allow this?” Fair question. I work this through with each one as best I can.
It seems easier sometimes to move beyond atrocities when they are far away – you know – out of sight, out of mind. Close – like a grenade – creates more damage. In November of last year in my hometown of Abbotsford, two 13-year-old students were stabbed in school (one killed) by an intruder. It gets much harder to sort through suffering when it’s in your world. We ask “why God, why?”
Ailments: health challenges
The second type of challenge we all face is illnesses. Why should a 10-year-old boy be asked to carry cancer? How is that fair? What sense does it make for God to allow a young mother of two pre-teens to get ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) with its challenging, life-threatening implications? Another faces depression. My wife has had two scares with the “C”-word and I lost my mother to acute leukemia. My daughter had a lump on her back at age 7 that had three medical specialists dumbfounded as to what it was. You think I didn’t ask God “why” with regard to these painful situations within my home? It’s natural to ask the hard questions of our Creator.
Adversities: difficult situations – external factors
We’ve seen a spat of natural disasters. Raging forest fires, floods and earthquakes that threaten and destroy lives and homes, and less serious circumstances such as a flooded basement, the costly appliance that dies, or the leaking roof. Perhaps it’s worse – like bankruptcy… all these challenge our faith. Hardships cause us to question ‘a divine plan’.
What about those we love? Kids can create heartache – not coming home, running away, failing at school or tripping out on drugs. A teenage daughter gets pregnant. Family feuds destroy seasonal gatherings. We wonder, “Where is God in all this?”
Marriage troubles wreak havoc. Your wife has an affair. Your husband has a sexual addiction and is hooked on porn. Maybe worse, you have the addiction and just can’t stop.You pray, you try but it’s not going away. You go through a divorce. You are saying inside, “God – I didn’t sign up for this!”
We’ve had two home break-ins – one while we were sleeping, six vehicles broken into and a car stolen. A ‘friend’ ripped me off financially in a car repair job. We lived below the poverty line while going to graduate school in Chicago and received bags of groceries from the US social services. I lost my job – fired. Sometimes, I feel like saying,“Enough is enough, God!”
Accidents: personal tradegies
What is a parent’s worst nightmare? A somber police officer at your the door saying, “there’s been an accident…” The news is devastating to the heart and debilitating to faith. Is this horrible event just chance? Is it a twist of fate? Or is it God’s plan? This is the final type of human calamity.
Where was God in the following heartbreaks – all of which have direct connection with our family? A 16-year-old drops dead on the ice during a hockey game after being hit in the chest with a puck. I coached him and spoke at his funeral. An 18 year old died in a car accident with his drunken friend driving. I did the memorial and counselled the families. A toddler drowned at home. I prayed with the couple as they battled their horror and grief. Why? Why? Why?
All these devastating incidents happen unexpectedly without a clear cause or reason….that’s why they are called accidents. The questions loom large.
Common responses to trials and tragedy
I see three common themes – the responses of deeply wounded hearts.
1. Despairing His presence: “Where are you God?” We feel alone, perhaps even abandoned. Has this hardship slipped off His radar? We think and say in our hearts, “Why did you leave me?” I can’t believe that He would have allowed this if He were present. Even Jesus knew this feeling: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
2. Denying His care: We conclude in our fog of despair that God doesn’t care. Can this hardship or catastrophe flow out of God’s love? We scream from our hearts, “If you loved me, you wouldn’t let this happen”. He is either callous (doesn’t care) or oblivious to my plight (isn’t aware). Either way – it’s surely not love. A loving God would not let this happen.
3. Doubting His will: How can this horrific atrocity or family tragedy be part of His plan? If this is His will, then it makes no sense to me. We shout out, “God, how can anything good come out of this?” We question whether He is capable of stepping in or putting a stop to things, or perhaps He doesn’t love me or is punishing me. What did I do wrong?
Tragedies in life leave us questioning God. Doubts are magnified as the hardships hit closer to home – literally impacting your family. That’s okay. God is big enough to take our questions and our criticisms.
Recovery from loss and coping with heartache will involve a journey. Keep walking in the right direction – toward your Creator and not away. Let me leave you with a thought about what’s coming in Part 2 of this series looking at God and human suffering. This image has helped me. It is simple but true.
As a child I remember my mother doing needlepoint. This hobby handcraft was a challenging endeavour where threads in various colours were stitched in an intricate fashion to create a very distinct image. To me though, from my vantage point, looking up, the whole thing was a confusing mess with threads looping all over the back without intention or plan.
I saw nothing but complete randomness without purpose or pattern. But to my mother, looking down, her view displayed a clear and profound design where each stitch of thread had a specific part to play in the overall picture. Stay with me for Part 2.