When our son was younger, he enjoyed the ‘Where’s Wally’ books. The premise being to look at a picture full of people and objects, and try to find the one person, Wally, in it. This often meant a long time searching trying to see where he was. To quote a phrase, he was “hidden in plain sight”, always there, but not always easy to spot.
Sometimes God seems like that. We’re told he’s there, but we don’t always notice him, can’t always see him. In fairness, we’re not even always looking.
It can be easy to jolly along through life, we don’t always stop and think. We are busy surviving and dealing with all life throws at us – good, bad and indifferent. But every so often something happens to make us really stop and think about some of the bigger questions. Sometimes these are joyful events, like the birth of a child or the wonder of creation; often they are more catastrophic, personally or in the wider community.
Whether coming from a faith stance or not, the question comes –
where is God?
Perhaps this crops up most when there is a disaster, then everyone wants to know how God can let this happen. The age-old question, if God is all loving and all-powerful – how, why?
Well, to my mind, God wouldn’t be much of a God if he was only there in the nice bits of life. Anyone can rock up when times are going well. Everyone wants to be your friend and companion. You discover who your true friends are when life is a struggle. The same is true of God. Just because times are tough, doesn’t mean he has disappeared. He is there with us in the dross, the difficulties, in the traumas, when we feel we can’t go on any longer – and that is when he shows his true love and worth. He is with us in giving us his strength; but he is with us also in those around us, those who carry us and support us when we can no longer do it for ourselves. God is there, and he carries on being there – when we know we need him, and when we don’t realize it.
I return again and again to this passage, as regular readers will know:
17 Though the fig-tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
God is God, not just of the good, bountiful times, but the times of desolation and emptiness too. He is the strength and life when nothing else is. The God amongst the barrenness. The God who still is there when everything else fails. A God who has been there himself.
This prayer from the Methodist Prayer Handbook, sums up some of this, the God of struggle and pain:
Loving, living God,
you come to our world as light shining in our darkness.
Through Jesus, your Son, our Saviour, you offer our world
the bright burning flame of hope
which neither fear, nor doubt,
neither cynicism, nor despair can ever extinguish.
Yet that hope which is ours is no rose-tinted optimism:
it is a hope forged in the pain of the servant hanging on a cross.
Because of his life, death and resurrection we live in hope today.
So, Lord, this day may we live in that hope,
and work that the hope which is ours may be made real for all. Amen.
James Booth, Liverpool District Chair
Where is God? Right here, in the middle of whatever is happening in your life and mine, crying, holding, strengthening, lifting, just being with – wherever and however we need him.
And that ladies and gentlemen is my 1000th blog. I decided to use it to “preach the one sermon”. It’s a theme I often return to, but the one that comes from my heart and my life. It’s not the best of me that I might want it to be, but life is not in that place at the moment, so it comes very much from where I am and how I am.
Like all I do, it is offered to you and to God to take and use as wished (and that isn’t meant to be as pious as it sounds – sorry!) That’s all any of us can do at any time – come to God from where we are, because he is there with us too.
So I can only finish with the hymn that sums it all up, even if I use if often