“Where are you God?”
It is a question many of us ask from time to time. In these times, the evidence of God’s existence is skimpy, if not non-existent as silence becomes the answer to our prayers. Darkness seems to greet us at every turn as it becomes our constant companion.
The reasons for the question are numerous. Maybe it was:
- A fatal diagnosis.
- Your home is engulfed in flames.
- An injury that left you in a wheelchair.
- A shooter entering your school or workplace, injuring and/or killing people you know.
- Or maybe the ongoing remains of trauma, an event in the past that enters into the present via images, such as flashbacks or nightmares; emotions, such as rage or shame; avoidances, such as an inability to sleep at night; and/or physical triggers, such as elevated heart rate.
- The sudden loss of a job.
- A relative or friend’s suicide
- A divorce
- An affair
- , etc., etc.
As the shadows continue to cling, perhaps we wonder, “Is my faith lacking?”
It is a question I have asked many times as I search for some reason for God’s deafening silence. Being an action-oriented person, I cannot help but wonder if there is something . . . anything . . . I can do about this silence.
To put it simply: it is hard to sit in the dark.
Part of my own reasons for my restlessness in the darkness is that historically in my pentecostal/Charismatic tradition, faith has been measured by the miracle one has received. If one has enough faith, then the evidence appears in the divine intervention, the deliverance by God. It is as if the arrival of the divine intervention is up to the person . . . as if the person has some sort of power over God via one’s faith. In this sense, faith is like a commodity: it can be traded for miracles and deliverances or even protection and security.
But what if our understanding of faith could be more than that? What if faith is actually trusting in the dark? What if faith is actually present, quite profoundly, when no miracle arrives? Perhaps a vibrant, strong faith is present even though an impossibility remains. Is it possible . . . faith can be the most vibrant in the dark? Is it possible . . . God is truly present when God is hidden, and genuine faith knows this?
Recently, the church celebrated Christmas, the day that recognizes God coming to this world as a baby . . . the commemoration of God being present among us. The arrival of God calls for singing, merry-making, bright sparkling lights, ribbons, candles, bright decorations . . . It is time to celebrate! The divine-human One has come . . . God is with us, Emmanuel.
And the celebration continues . . .
This coming weekend the church commemorates Epiphany, the recognition of Jesus Christ being revealed to the Gentiles, particularly to the magi in Matthew 2. In essence, it is the continuation of the Christmas celebration . . . wise men came from the East to Jerusalem in search of this King. Their arrival in Jerusalem caused quite a stir as the wise men wanted to know where this King was to be born. Herod, in turn, asked the experts of the Law who told him, “Bethlehem,” and Herod informed the wise men, who went to find and worship this King.
Yet, was the arrival of the King culminating only in singing and merry-making? Matthew indicates that the answer is, “No.”
According to Matthew’s Gospel, the King’s arrival also caused quite a “stir” in Bethlehem, but it was not altogether the kind of “stir” that one desires. King Herod was perhaps threatened or maybe fearful that another king had arrived on the scene. Perhaps he was seeking to guard his throne . . . his own power. Not knowing who the baby was or exactly where he was, Herod took broad measures to protect his own rule: Herod had all the children in the region of Bethlehem who were two and under slaughtered.
If anyone expected God’s arrival to usurp human will, they were sadly mistaken. God respects human will, including that of a ruthless king. That is to say, the Ruler of All was present during Herod’s wickedness, honoring Herod’s choices . . . respecting his will.
If anyone in Bethlehem had their hope in a ruler to maintain peace and order and offer protection, they probably were gravely disappointed—Herod’s act reminds us how this type of thinking is faulty.
If anyone in Bethlehem wondered where God was amidst this slaughter, Matthew implicitly answers this question: God was present on earth in the Christ child, the King of all Kings. And in this King’s Kingdom, mourning is embraced (Mt 5:4). How ironic. God was present as a baby as women wept over the cruel loss of their babies. That is, God was present, but not in the way people expected—as a baby.
Matthew is clear: Emmanuel, God is with us . . . God is present amidst the rejoicing and the weeping.
So while we may expect or hope or pray for God to show up in a particular way (deliverance, miracle, protection, etc.) . . . God may be present in ways we do not expect or see.
Matthew demonstrates that in times of our darkness, God is there.
God, help us see you by faith . . . in the dark.