WHERE WAS GOD?
“Where was God when……” How many times I have heard a client say that to me during a counseling session when they have been telling me of a painful, traumatic time in their past. “Where was God? Why did He let me go through this terrible time, this terrible experience, this senseless pain? If He is really a God of love, then how can He allow so much suffering….How can He allow ME to suffer?”
These questions most often arise in sessions with clients who have been sexually abused. One of the reasons I believe that childhood incest and other sexual abuse is so devastating and deep-seated lies in the fact that the experience seems to almost uniformly distort the victim’s view of God. We know that abuse of any kind produces a profound sense of abandonment, separation, a sense of aloneness for the child that haunts her/him into adulthood. Such events can permanently lower brain chemicals, such as Seretonin, and distort perceptions, feelings, thinking, and choices long after the event has passed.
When a child is abused by a primary caregiver/provider, the child’s perception is that s/he has been abused by God because it is from our parents, our primary caregivers, that we first learn the concept of one who is greater than ourselves, a higher authority.
The child, as s/he matures, does not seem to be able to separate their view of God from the view they have of their parents. There does not need to be violent, physical abuse to produce this belief. Neglect or verbal abuse; shaming, will serve the same purpose.
So where was God when this abuse and/or neglect was going on? A single, unique event in history, the crucifixion of Jesus, provides a powerful insight to this question.
Scripture tells us in Isaiah 52 and 53 that Messiah, the Anointed One, would suffer a death that would free all who chose to accept His sacrificial act. We often hear from God’s Word that “Jesus died for our sins.” But there is more to that phrase than meets the eye. What came to me one day in pondering the question, “Where was God?”, was the fact, supported by scripture, that Jesus took on our EXACT pain, suffering, turmoil, shame, aloneness, fear, guilt, illnesses, and beyond…. everything that was sin, or the product of sin, Jesus, at one point in time, one moment in history, took upon Himself and made His. He did not take on some generic form of sin and pain that represented ours. He took on, experienced, my/our, EXACT sin and pain.
So what has that to do with the answer to the question of God’s whereabouts? It has everything to do with it! If it is true that Jesus took upon Himself, ALL SIN AND ANY RESULT OF SIN, then the answer to the question of God’s whereabouts when I have gone through pain and suffering, or go through it in the future, is clear. The one answer that makes any sense is that God Incarnate was experiencing our pain with us! He was there!! We have not been abandoned! He is not without love and capricious. He dealt with the situation in the one way that would eventually give us a way out of pain and suffering, a way out of sin!
God apparently decided a long time ago that what He wanted for the human race was the opportunity to have a CHOICE! Otherwise we would be robots, incapable of choosing to have a relationship with Him out of our own free will–incapable of loving Him. Knowing we would exercise our choice in such a way as to cause separation from Him (sin), He provided a way out, both in the here and now and eternally. He would take away all of the things which estrange us from Him and dump them as you would so much garbage. But to do so, He had to come as a real man and die a real death so you and I could be REAL!
Don’t we as parents, spouses, family members, and friends often try to take away painful feelings and circumstances those WE love are experiencing? We try to, but we don’t have that power. Jesus did for us what we cannot do for ourselves or others: free us from the pain and suffering He knew was coming. In that one moment on the cross, all of human history, past, present, and future, was focused on the Lord Jesus so that anything that would block us from Him could be destroyed and thrown away forever! So that any loss we would suffer could, in some way and time, be paid back in full and even more!
Isaiah 53:4 & 5 shows us that Jesus, the Messiah, “…took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities…”. His death was so real that Isaiah 52 implies that taking on our sin and suffering so distorted His features that He was unrecognizable! He took on OUR EXACT PAINS, GRIEFS, BURDENS, and ABUSE, AS WELL AS OUR SINS!
A friend of mine recently became ill and couldn’t care for her house. Some of her friends went over and cleaned it from top to bottom. They didn’t clean up dirt and trash that was similar to her’s or that looked like her’s. They cleaned up her EXACT DIRT! Jesus did the same thing in one moment in time for all of us. He knows what you and I have and are experiencing because He has already experienced it! He chose to do this for a couple of reasons:
- To prove how valuable we are to Him.
- To demonstrate, in the clearest possible terms, that He has provided a way for us to be healed, both now and forever: Spirit, Soul and Body.
He couldn’t prevent us or others from choosing sin or being affected by sin without violating our free will, but He found the one way out. “…the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isa.53:5b NIV).
Where was God when you were being abused, violated, hurt, shamed, cheated, betrayed? HE WAS THERE! He also is there when you sin and cause pain to others! And, He promises that He always will be! (Heb.13:5)