Where is God when it hurts?
How can I believe in God, when life doesn’t go the way I planned? Why would a good God allow something so bad to happen? Where was God when Andrew died? Where is He now in my pain? Why didn’t He heal the mental illness? Where are you God when it hurts?
It was my sophomore year in college when I first discovered the depth of the love of God. The local church I attended at the time started something new called, “Third Wednesday”. The third Wednesday of each month was intentionally set apart as a way to slow down and seek God. On this day the church would be open for a morning session, a lunch session, and an evening session.
I was feeling far from God. The hype of freshman year had worn off and as a sophomore I was lost and lonely. I needed to seek God in a new way so I decided to give, “third Wednesday,” a shot. I headed into the morning session a skeptic. I felt insecure going alone but I knew I was supposed to be there, so I went. I am so grateful I followed the Holy Spirit’s lead, I will never forget how my faith and my relationship with God was transformed through the service.
The chairs were removed, the lights were low and soft acoustic music filled the room. I found an empty space and sat down on the floor soaking it all in, the presence of God covering me like a thick warm blanket. Half way through the session, one of the pastors came to the stage and started to read a passage I had never heard before. She asked us to close our eyes, relax our mind, and allow God’s powerful word to wash over us. I followed her lead and I was instantly broken by the love of God. I felt a divine release. Through the power of His word the God I once knew, the God I was searching for became personal, present, and powerful. The passage was Psalm 139:
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you……
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
What God revealed to me through His word was the key to unlocking a boundless relationship with Him. I came to realize He was always there, He never left me. Even when I felt alone, lost, confused, angry, and sad, He was there. Even when life didn’t go the way I planned, He was there. Even when it felt like all my friends and family abandoned me, He was there. What I discovered then and what I know right now in the depths of this horrific nightmare and unrelenting pain is, He is there.
The suffering and pain of this world does not diminish His power. God is near and He has made His presence known through my suffering. I have seen the hand of God more at work these last few months than ever before. He has already performed miracles above and beyond anything I could have asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20). There were SO many miracles I actually had to start writing them down. Now I have an ongoing list in my phone to keep track of everything He has done. Itty-bitty miracles I may have missed before, to massive miracles I never could have dreamed were possible. This is the kind of God He is! He is good; He is near; He shouts in our pain; He catches our tears. He holds me in His loving embrace, even when I am laying on the bathroom floor screaming and crying uncontrollably, He is there. When I am cleaning up my son’s throw up for the 3rd time in one night, He is there. When I am face down on the newly planted grass and dirt weeping over my husband’s grave, He is there. When I can’t get out of bed because I am overcome with sadness and pain, He is there.
So where is God when it hurts? He is right there where He has always been. There is absolutely nowhere I can go to escape His loving embrace. I don’t have to earn His love. I don’t have to seek His love. I don’t even have to open my Bible. He simply loves me and is present because I am His! When we suffer, when we are in pain, when we are overcome with grief, God suffers with us. He is not distant or detached. He is near and He shares in our suffering. There will never be sufficient words to comfort, but the Word who became flesh is enough. Every single worry, every single grief, every single pain, every single doubt, every single bad terrible thing, all we CAN do when we don’t know what to do is lay it all down at the feet of Jesus.