Tag Archives: suffering

Where is God in All This?

MartinHandfordWally&Friends” by http://waldo.wikia.com. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

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:

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIVUK)

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

 

Advertisements

Taking the Blame

You didn’t do it.  Do you protest your innocence?  Pass the blame to the person that did?  Or calmly take it, for the sake of the person that did?

1 Peter 2:19-25 (CEV)

19 God will bless you, even if others treat you unfairly for being loyal to him. 20 You don’t gain anything by being punished for some wrong you have done. But God will bless you, if you have to suffer for doing something good. 21 After all, God chose you to suffer as you follow in the footsteps of Christ, who set an example by suffering for you.

22 Christ did not sin
    or ever tell a lie.
23 Although he was abused,
    he never tried to get even.
And when he suffered,
    he made no threats.
Instead, he had faith in God,
    who judges fairly.
24 Christ carried the burden
    of our sins.
He was nailed to the cross,
so that we would stop sinning
    and start living right.
By his cuts and bruises
    you are healed.
25 You had wandered away
    like sheep.
Now you have returned
    to the one
who is your shepherd
    and protector.

This letter is written to encourage the Christians who were suffering and being persecuted for their faith.  Peter acknowledges that they are largely suffering for doing nothing more than following the way that Jesus had shown them.  Their treatment is unfair.  But, he reminds them, they are not the first to suffer unfairly – that is the way that Jesus went – and he really had done nothing wrong – ever!

They are suffering abuse and threats.  What they have to stand firm in, is that Jesus has been there, to the ultimate end.  He did it so that they, and we, know we are not alone.  Whatever we may be subjected to in the name of our faith, Jesus has been there.  His wounds, his scars offer us healing and his presence.

In the UK, we do not suffer for our religion.  Yes we may get the occasional funny look or be challenged, we may even be required to remove a cross as jewellery or a badge, but that is not suffering or persecution.  If we think it is we do a huge disservice to those who truly are suffering for their faith, places where people’s lives are in danger for what they believe.  In fact I think we do more persecuting of one another than we receive from others!

Yet there are things we have done, that we will not be punished for.  They are things we have got wrong, but yet we take no blame, because Jesus, the blameless one, has already done it.  We have wandered, we do deserve punishment, but we are saved from it.  He suffered and died, so that we might know life, freedom, a new hope and a new start.

So perhaps any time we think we’re suffering unjustly and feel like moaning; perhaps we should remember, not the things we haven’t done that we’re being condemned for; but the things we have done that we haven’t taken the blame for – quite a sobering thought.  And then thank God, that Jesus did.  The one who had never done any wrong took the blame of the whole world, of everything I have ever done wrong and offers me forgiveness, life and hope.

Unfailing Love

Forgive me Lord,
when I feel badly done to,
unfairly treated,
wrongly accused;
yet happily accept
not taking the blame
for things I’ve got wrong.

Thank you for Jesus,
who took the blame
for all I’ve done,
took the pain,
the insults,
the abuse
that rightly are mine.

Thank you for forgiveness
for freedom
for love
and for hope,
offered freely to me
at such great cost to you.

I pray for those who truly are persecuted today
for following you,
for safety,
security,
for strength
and hope

Review of Dazzling Darkness by Rachel Mann

 

 

Dazzling Darkness by Rachel Mann is a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages.  We heard Rachel speak at last years Greenbelt and I wanted to hear more.

I had to read this book twice before I could write about it.   Not because I didn’t get it, but because it is so powerful.

At its heart Dazzling Darkness is a journey into honest self-discovery and perhaps more importantly, learning to live with that self. It is a story of the dark places, of longing for wholeness of all kinds, and finding the hope within them. It is a struggle to find language to express what needs to be said. This is a book about the Living God, very much present in the darkness, but not always how we imagine it.

I found this a powerful, honest and gritty book. It pulls no punches about the difficulties the author faced and continues to face, which is important. So often we only hear ‘nice’ stories about faith, we need to hear more real ones. Rachel Mann manages to bring hope and reality without saccharine sweet answers. I found chapter 9 the most power thing I have read on the suffering of chronic illness – and I have read, and written, a lot! As someone for whom chronic illness has robbed me of much, it made a different kind of sense to me than that which is usually offered.

It is a painful book, a book of struggle, very much grounded in the reality of life. We may think our story is nothing like this one, but pain and struggle are all around us; if not currently in our own life, in the lives of those in our community every day. It also might make you look at God in a different, helpful way. You may not ‘get’ it all, I’m not sure I did, but it is very worth the challenge.

I don’t think I have ever read a book quite like it, and I will fail to do it justice by saying any more than saying just read it.