We don’t all have the same experience of God in suffering. For some, their primary experience of him through trauma is a sense of being close to him, that he is present with them in it. For others, there can be a deep sense of abandonment, or doubt about God’s existence. (How could he possibly exist and yet let this happen to me?) Sometimes the strength of that feeling of abandonment and hurt just reflects the value we place on our friendship. David wrote, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it… but it is you, my close friend.”1 There is no “one size fits all” here.
I have a dear and trusted friend whose experience in this was, “I want to be God’s friend. Does he want to be mine?” That experience was excruciating. Heartbreaking.
If you have landed in a place where you are, with some strength, wanting to know where God is, why he didn’t prevent the trauma, or anything along those lines: you represent a very strong Biblical tradition of asking those questions. You are not alone.
The very scriptures that proclaim the reality and love of God, also give us story after story of people asking him where he is, and why he doesn’t act. They are not condemned for it.
Jeremiah, exhausted and under constant attack from “friends” and foes, accused God of lying, cursed the day he was born, and saw no relief in his future.2 As far as we know God did not respond – other than to continue to trust Jeremiah with the responsibility of being his representative.3 Hardly condemnation.
And then we see in the Psalms:
“Why, Yahweh, do you reject me and hide your face from me?”4
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.”5
“O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still.”6
I wonder what tone of voice the writers used. It all sounds pretty calm on paper. Perhaps it was like that, but I could easily imagine someone yelling, pleading, or sobbing:
“How long, Yahweh? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
And every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?”7
Some other translations sound even stronger in their tone:
“Yahweh, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?”8
“How long, Yahweh, will you continue to ignore me? How long will you pay no attention to me?”9
Where I have written “Yahweh”, that’s the name the psalmist used in these verses. It is a very personal name for God, perhaps the most personal. It was the name he gave himself when he spoke to Moses. Compared to his other names, it is less of a title, and more of a rich disclosure of his nature. And it unveils the limitlessness of who God is. This is God who is able to act, who is unlimited in power.
So why did he not stop the abuse?
It is a valid question.
Glib answers are hardly going to be helpful here. Sometimes people come to some kind of understand of why things might have happened, sometimes not. This devotion is not about giving an answer to that question. Partly because I do not know. Situations are unique. What this is about is permission to have vigorous conversations with God. To know it’s ok to do that.
More on this tomorrow. Meanwhile, one of the verses I most love is, “a bruised reed he will not break.”10
Steve WadeThe very scriptures that proclaim the reality and love of God, also give us story after story of people asking him where he is, and why he doesn’t act. They are not condemned for it. Click To Tweet