Where is God in all of this?

I received an email recently entitled, “Where is God in all of this?” and it is the same question that I get asked often. I believe it is a common question for those who put their faith out there and an even more frequent question for those of us who work for the Church. I hear it from my students many times. Just the other day in class we were talking about the existence of God and I asked my students why they think that people do not believe in God. There were many different answers but in each of my classes, the first answer was, “Because so much bad happens in the world that if there was a God, why doesn’t He do something about it?” It is absolutely a fair question to ask.

I am dealing with this question right now in a very personal way. My best friend’s nephew recently got diagnosed with Burkett’s Leukemia. He is almost seven years old and probably one of the sweetest little boys you will ever meet. When Jordan was nine months old he was diagnosed with Williams’ Syndrome, a genetic disorder that resulted in him needing open heart surgery as a baby.  Everyone who has had the pleasure and blessing of meeting Jordan understands what an amazing and loving child he is. He has had to battle his whole life so far but none greater than the battle he is going through now. 

The question of where is God in all this was one that came at me pretty quickly. Within moments of the news of the diagnosis, my friend went from despair to anger at God. “If there is a God, how can He allow this to happen?” “If there is a God, I want nothing to do with Him!” Just a few days later I would see another friend on Facebook write a post about a loved one he had lost, this being the second young person in his family to die in seven years. In his post he asked that people stop telling him that “God needed him” and that “God took him home” because if there was a God he did not want anything to do with Someone Who was so mean and evil. 

It was so hard for me to see these people I care about so hurt and feeling so abandoned by God. It was at that time that I received the email (which happened to be spam) entitled “Where is God in all of this?” and I thought maybe it was my sign to share what I thought on this topic. Please understand that I am not writing as an expert in suffering and loss but rather a person who happens to be able to see God in the hardest of times. This does not mean that I do not get mad at Him or upset with Him, it just means that God and I have come to an understanding that I will get mad for a brief moment, but with the help of His grace, I will quickly get over my anger. 

So to get to my original point, where is God in suffering, I believe He is right there, in the midst of it, suffering beside you. I believe that when I am crying, God is holding me, crying with me because like any good father, He feels the pain of His children. He did not create us to see us suffer. He created us out of love, to be in a loving relationship with Him, a relationship designed to last for all eternity. It is like the beautiful poem, “Footprints” says, it is at our lowest moments, when we no longer have the strength to stand up on our own, that God carries us. I think most of us have been to that really sad wake or funeral where we wonder how the family is making it through it. Those are the moments that I know that God is right there.

Tim Keller wrote a book entitled “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” in which he writes, “You don’t really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have” (page five). There have been so many times in my life and in the lives of those I care about that I have seen them get through the day to day only by their recognition that Christ is all they have left. And that’s enough. Sometimes it feels like it is barely enough but He does help you hold on. 

The other issue is if God loves us so much, why do we suffer? Again, I am no expert on this but unfortunately through our own sinfulness, things like disease, pain, disasters, war and ultimately death have become prevalent in our world. This is not what God intended for us but He had to allow us to choose to follow Him, choose to love Him and so came freewill. Humanity sadly chooses to not always use our freewill to follow God and through that we caused sickness and destruction. Now I do not mean to imply that a child who gets cancer gets it because of his sinfulness. What I believe is that humanity as a whole has brought illness and death through our neglect of the planet and the bodies that God gave us. The good news is that the grace that God provides us with during suffering only makes us stronger. Again Tim Keller writes, “A lump of coal under pressure becomes a diamond. And the suffering of a person in Christ only turns you into somebody gorgeous” (pages 180-181).

I do not believe that God causes suffering and I firmly believe that He suffers beside us. He is right there waiting for us to lean on Him. I pray for all those who are suffering at this time and I hope that you too can see God in the midst of pain.

Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan. She can be reached at atarantelli@bishopstang.org.

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