“God, where were you?”
That’s the good version of the question, because you are still on speaking terms with the Lord.
But if this question is left unresolved, over time it becomes, “Where was God when __________ happened [I was raped, my child died, I was fired because of someone’s lies…]? You are no longer talking to God, you are now talking about him.
Later? Just silence. God, from your perspective, is no longer a player in everyday life.
This is a very difficult question, which is capable of stunting spiritual growth and corroding one’s faith in Jesus. If it is your question, you must do something with it.
Here is a start.
What are you really asking?
Sometimes “where were you?” is not really what is on your heart.
When my daughter Lisa was little, she would have a predictable response when she was hurt.
“Daddy!” Or sometimes, “Daddy, why did you do that?” These are variations on, “where were you? Why didn’t you do something?” She probably did the same thing with her mother when I wasn’t around. Whoever was closest during the accident was, somehow, at fault.
Once she stubbed her toe while running after her sister. I was reading a book on the other side of the room.
Sure enough, “Daddy!”
In response I could have explained, “Lisa, I didn’t do it to you. You were playing with Lindsay and hit the sofa leg with you bare foot.” But my daughter didn’t really want an explanation of what happened. What she was really saying was this: “Daddy, please help me. I feel hurt and alone.”
All I needed to do was to pick her up, and say “Sweetie, I am so sorry,” which is not an admission of guilt but an offer of compassion. She was not really blaming me. She wanted comfort and the assurance that I cared about what happened to her.
So we could expand “Where were you?” to “God, why did you do this to me?” or “Why didn’t you prevent that evil from happening to me?” These questions belie deeper and usually more basic concerns about God’s love. His answer: “Yes, I know these things are hard to understand but I really do love you – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus proves that – and what hurts you hurts me.” Comfort and compassion.
What if it’s not a question; what if it’s a statement?
Are you actually asking God, “where were you?” or are you making a statement like “God was not there. He can’t be trusted. He isn’t safe.”
Sometimes these statements are expressed as anger towards God. When people speak about anger with God I want to understand what they are really saying before I try to respond. Real anger at God, I believe, is a rare and dangerous thing. Most people who mention such anger are not quite as angry with God as they think. They are just having a hard time putting words on their sufferings.
“Sometimes I hate God.” Maybe you do, but maybe you don’t. You might actually be saying, “I hate myself for letting this happen. Regarding God, I don’t know what to think. He says he loves me, but I don’t understand. It seems he wasn’t there when I needed him.”
What should we do about this?
There is much more to say. Here are the first steps.
- Speak to the Lord, not just about him.
- Recognize that behind your bluster and sometimes lame attempts at acting angry are childlike questions about God’s love and care.
- Repeat #1.