Again, Where Was God?

When things go wrong and life falls apart, it’s not unusual for people to want to fire God.

It would be like axing an incompetent personal assistant.  Is this any way to run a universe?

Or we want to go to Facebook and un-friend God – to remind him that his performance is utterly unacceptable. The catastrophic wind damage and flooding from Hurricane Harvey is simply the most recent example.

In response, God offers us some amazing stories in Scripture that help us see a larger picture.

One of them is from the book of Daniel, where life comes crashing down on the heads of three young men.  Their names are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

They’re forced to make a choice:  bow before the egomaniacal king of Babylon instead of God, or be thrown into a fiery furnace – an ordeal which they cannot possibly survive.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego reaffirm their trust in God, knowing it’s a death sentence.

Into the furnace they go.

But then something happens.  To the shock of everyone, the furnace doesn’t kill them.  The king himself can see them walking around inside.

And then he sees something else:  There’s a fourth person, whom the king describes as “a son of the gods,” walking alongside them.  They ultimately emerge unscathed.

In a world that is ravaged by hurricanes, wars, and cancers, all of us go into the furnace from time to time.

As author and pastor Tim Keller points out, most of us then want to pick one of three options.  We’d like to run around the furnace – to avoid it, if at all possible.  Or maybe we can just race right through it – to deny how dreadful it is.  Or maybe we should just lie down in the middle of the pain, and give in to despair.  Yet none of these options is realistic or hopeful.

So where was God while Harvey devastated the Gulf Coast?

God was in the middle of everything:  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner seemed to strike just the right tone last Sunday on Meet the Press:  “I’m encouraging people, ‘Get up, and let’s get going.’”

We keep walking, one step at a time.

God directs us in the 23rd psalm to go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  And that means weeping, hoping, praying, and trusting – just putting one foot in front of the other.

For those of us beyond the Gulf Coast, it means we add our own prayers, willing hands, and financial gifts.

There is no place we can ever go, there are no thoughts we can ever think, there are no decisions we can ever make, even in our moments of greatest weakness or emptiness or sheer stupidity, that can separate us from the love of God – if we are willing to keep walking with him.

For as we walk, we will discover soon enough that we’re not alone.

The Son of God is walking with us.

— Authored by Glenn McDonald

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