Friday, July 27, 2012

What to say when you are asked "Where was God?"

One of the most difficult things I have experienced in working with young people is watching them fall.  I can think of one young guy in particular who asked me when he was elementary school how he could be involved in our student leadership team.  After telling him that he wasn't old enough to join that team he walked away disappointed.  Years later I have remained in contact with him, only to have watched him get in trouble with the law, pour himself into drugs and become quite resentful of life.

While I recognize that I am not responsible for the decisions that this young man has made, I do wish that I could have saved him the troubles he has experienced in his life.  The longer I do this type of work the more stories I have like this lining themselves up on the back of my mind.

Because of my role in the community I am known as someone that is somehow a conduit to God, so in some cases I be at the brunt end of angry questions toward God.

Where was God when my mom got sick?

Why doesn't God care?

how can you say God exists when my best friend died last year?

In some cases I wonder the same thing.  Where was God?  What was he doing here?  Why didn't he answer these kids' prayers?

I remember watching the documentary "Expelled" with Ben Stine.  There is a scene where he is interviewing the brilliant minded and well spoken Richard Dawkins who wrote such books as the God Delusion and eventually persuades Dawkins to speak hypothetically about what he would say to God if he found out that he indeed existed.  Dawkins replied: "Why have you gone to such great pains to hide yourself?"

You or I may balk at such an answer and try to defend God's existence or how his ways are above our ways and his hiddenness is simply a matter our our own  misunderstandings of him.  Even if this were an 100% correct answer.  It still doesn't help address the question.

I have come to recognize that the majority of the time when I asked these difficult questions that the people asking aren't actually even looking for answers.  They are expressing emotion. They are grieving whatever they have lost.  I will often say that I don't have an answer that will help and instead I will simply listen to their perspective. 

Still some of these questions bug me because I feel that in many cases God is keeping himself hidden and that has not ever made sense to me until I came across this Proverb (25:2) the other day which said this:

"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
    to search out a matter is the glory of kings."

Suddenly something clicked for me.  God at times hides himself so that people will search for him.  They may not describe it that way.  They may say they are looking for meaning or purpose, They may not say anything of the sort and simply be reacting to their subconscious though or emotions on the matter.  But at Morpheus said in the Matrix: it is the question that drives us.

Even Jesus rarely gave a direct answer, but answered a question with a question. It is frustrating because we just want him to fix our problems, but in many ways he is respecting us in not simply giving us the answers but allowing us to come to our own conclusions: right or wrong as they may be.

That being said, as hard as it is for me to watch a kid fall knowing I had answers (that they didn't want or ask for) that could have prevented their pain, how much more painful is it for God to have billions of such stories.
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