You’re in a tough spot, needing help. It dawns on you. Talk to God about it. So you do. And you wait, and wait, and wait some more. Still no answer. You get to a point where you just give up and walk away. And you mutter to yourself “Where’s God when I need Him?”
It’s a big question. “Where’s God?”
Everyone asks it, even those who don't believe. We're wired to seek God even when we deny He exists. So, from those who claim no belief, to the less spiritually mature, to seasoned followers of Jesus the question is asked 'Where are you God?' Then the wait begins. Those wanting immediate answers and none is forthcoming often walk away disillusioned or at least shaking their head in some form of discouragement. Others, who know God is never rushed, continue along the ancient paths content to wait but still longing for answers. The 'silence of God' is part of the spiritual journey. It's not a lot of fun but it's definitely part of it. We have our choices. We can murmur our discontent or continue to wait with expectaton for God to speak.
We’re living in a world where people are screaming for answers from God.
Where’s that job?
How will I ever retire?
Why am I sick?
Why does life have to hurt so much?
When the ‘customer service God’ they call to doesn’t deliver then the disillusionment kicks in.
As a pastor I deal with people’s disappointment with God all the time. They want answers. “Why doesn’t God come through for me the way I want Him to?”
The truth is we believe more in divine magic than in a relationship with the divine.
We call out to a ‘magic wand’ kind of God thinking that we’re in control. And the true God of true God is not swayed. He’s not into games. He’s into relationship. And He’s not willing to lure you into relationship with cheap parlor games. We’re asking Him to prove Himself. He already has.
Does God care? Yes, He does. Why does He act at a snails pace sometimes? I don’t know. He does. Am I willing to trust a God who moves slower than I’d like? What about if it’s really slow? What if it’s ‘slow’ with a ‘no’ when it gets to you?
Can you trust that kind of God?
Do you really have a choice?
You see, trust means trust. Pretty profound, huh. It’s a radical thing when you trust in the midst of uncertainty.
Those questions linger though. Should we pray for a job, for healing, for our future, for others? Yes. What choice do we have? I mean, we could give up. Then what? Would you feel better? I wouldn’t.
Scripture talks about waiting and wandering. In the big story people waited and wandered for long periods of time. 40 years for many. 400 years for some. Waiting and wandering. Wandering and waiting. His people looked up to the heavens and wondered.
They found other gods, other hopes, and different dreams. They led nowhere. And then God, in His timing, sends them a message. He tells His people that He hasn’t forgotten them, that He still has a hope and a future for them. He tells them that there’s a reason for the wandering and the waiting. And He tells them to trust Him.
I don’t understand God’s timing. I do understand my unwillingess to wait and wander. You see, I’m a good middle class American. I want what I want when I want it. That usually means now.
Now doesn’t mean much to God. He’s got a different view of things. His now might be weeks, months, or even years away. In the in between time …that gap between my prayer and God’s answer I need to learn how to live. With hope, with expectation, with yearning.
The truth is that I’ll get sick, someday sick enough to die. The economy will take its toll on me. People will disappoint me. God will feel both close and distant. None of this ultimately matters.
A long time ago I told God I’d trust Him with my life in good times and not so good. I knew enough of Him that I felt He was trustworthy. Nothing has changed. Like you, I wish God’s timing was my timing but every the truth is that I need to lean into ‘your will be done’ thing we Christians are fond of reciting. Maybe there’s more peace and contentment in that than we even realize.
In the meantime when I sense more of God's absence than presence I need to go looking for the Divine in all the familiar places. For me that means music, in believing friends, in the comfort and challenge of wise authors, in worship, in repentance, in prayer, through creation, in certain geographical places, through service and mission trips, the arts and the reading of the sacred text. I go to those spots where I have met God before. Often something happens. I am strangely warmed. There are glimpses of the intimacy I crave. And I realize that the absence I'm experiencing is the result of ignoring certain habits and avoiding certain experiences. I am the one absent, not God.