“Why did God do this?” “How could God let this happen?” “Where was God?”
These are common and understandable questions. They arise most often in times of pain and suffering. But I think if one is determined to “peer into the mind of this hidden God,” he or she may only find an endless abyss of nothingness. The reason for this is that God hasn’t revealed every single aspect of his divine plan to us. We know some great, wonderful pieces as laid out in Scripture and the experience of the Church. But we cannot pretend, preachers especially!, to have all the answers in terms of what God may or may not be doing in any one instance. But thankfully, there is one thing we can be sure of and one place where can look and not come up empty.
Martin Luther wrote heavily on the matter of God’s hiddenness, but at the same time he offered a helpful–and I believe the ONLY helpful–course of action. One must “flee the hidden God and run to Christ alone.” Now that sounds somewhat blasphemous to anyone who’s sat in a sermon only to hear the counsel “Run to God! He’ll show you the way.” That’s a great line, but practically I’m not sure people, myself included, know what it means. In Jesus, though, we see the face of what would otherwise be a hidden God. We know so little about what God is doing in detail, but in Jesus we bear witness to the character of God and the nature of who we were intended to be and what we will become (not Messiahs, but holy).
We look to Jesus and see compassion for those in need and those who are sick or physically disabled. We see God’s heart for those who die unjustly when Jesus weeps over Lazarus’s grave. Jesus is actually angry that Lazarus died. And sure, Jesus is going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but he knows that his good friend will die yet again. God also cares to make provision for our sin and the evil we perpetrate (which we don’t like to talk about because it requires acknowledging we aren’t as good as we think we are). But our evilness and God’s goodness are why there are crosses hanging all around the world.
God may seem hidden, but-in the words of John Stackhouse, in Jesus we see “God close to us, active among us, loving us, forgiving our sin, opening a way to a new life of everlasting love.”
Seeing the face of God in Jesus doesn’t make the pain any less real or the suffering any less tragic, but it does provide a means for addressing the pain and suffering rather than growing angry and bitter towards God. God is working in the time-frame of eternity, so I would encourage us all in moments of pain and suffering not to paint our picture of God in finite strokes. Although unfathomable, eternity puts now in perspective.