Where is God when it hurts?
C.S. Lewis once wrote, "Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him then with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away."
Wow. Have you ever felt like that when you are in pain? As if God is there or perhaps more importantly, God doesn't care?
Here's what I know about hurt:
Pain is allowed in our lives to protect us. In one sense (and please meditate on this) it is God's great gift to us - a gift that nobody wants. But without it, our lives would be open to abuse and horrible decay. Example: Pain is what keeps us from keeping our hand on a hot stove.
God gives us the freedom of choice. We can choose to do good. We can choose to do bad. When we (or others) choose to do bad - there is pain. There is hurt. that this world is full of evil and suffering is an example of God's mercy - not his cruelty. When Adam ultimately chose against God, our world was forever spoiled.
Pain is "God's megaphone" (as C.S. Lewis writes). When we are in pain, God is desiring to speak to us. The existence of suffering in our lives shouts to all of us that something is wrong.
The issue is not: "Why is God allowing pain" or "Is God responsible" - but "What is God trying to teach me"? "How should I react now that this terrible thing has happened?"
I can only overcome pain as I let go and "let God." The Christian life is like a trapeze act. You can swing on the bar, exercising and building muscles all you want. But if you want to excel, you have to let go, with nothing beneath you, and reach out for the next trapeze bar.
The story is told of a group of Jewish concentration camp prisoners held a mock trial to determine whether or not God was guilty of the suffering in the world. In the movie the actors are from all walks of life, a doctor, a rabbi, a glove maker, a professor and a criminal, to name a few.
The prisoners have been selected for extermination in the gas chambers the next day. As they try to make sense of all that has happened to them, they also wonder where God is in all of this. Some are afraid to question God. Others are ready to curse God.
As the trial proceeds various witnesses are called forth to testify for or against God. The current situation of European Jewry and Israel's long history as an oppressed people is recalled. Some testify that God is working out a purifying mystery in the Jewish people.
Others claim that God has broken the covenant and is no longer interested in the Jewish people. In the end, the men in the barracks find God guilty of breach of contract.
He has not taken care of them as promised in the Bible. As they enter the gas chambers one of them asks another "What do we do now that we found God guilty?" His friend answers: "Now we pray."
Like the disciples, we cry out in the midst of our pain: "Where else can we go God, but to you?"
Know that while you may not feel His presence - God is with you in the midst of your pain.
I think of Elie Wiesel. I think of him watching a little boy hang, almost but not quite dead from a gallows at Auschwitz.
Wiesel writes (In his book, "Night"): "One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place - three victims in chains - and one of them the little servant, the sad-eyed angel.
The three victims (were) mounted together onto chairs.
The Three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses.
At a sign - the three chairs tipped over.
Total silence throughout the camp.
Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive - but the third rope was still moving; being so light the child was still alive.
For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face.
Behind me, (Wiesel writes) I heard a man asking: "Where is God now?"
And I heard a voice within me answer him: "Where is he?"
"Here he is - he is hanging here on this gallows."
My dear friends, when you hurt, know that God is suffering with you.
Just a thought for a Thursday.