The tears came hot, pouring from the corners of my eyes in the dark, forming two spots on the pillow behind my ears. Josh was asleep, Van was snoring the soft purr of a baby in his bassinet. But I couldn’t sleep.
I closed my eyes and saw them again.
The baby born still and cold.
The child hungry and thin, his eyes looking widely at the camera as if it could feed him.
The woman watching blood pool in the toilet, only a few weeks after her positive pregnancy test.
There is too much evil, Lord, I cried. There is too much grief.
It takes only a few minutes on Instagram to see it. Only a few minutes in a newsfeed to come upon it. The grief of the world, not just our world but the whole world, runs the empathy meter to its max and makes me wonder – how could a good God let it be like this?
We shy away from such questions as Christians. Who are we to question the Potter (Romans 9:21)? Who am I to ask why (Job 7:20)? We are told to silence the doubt, to stuff it away, to hide the “lack of faith” until the lack of faith becomes deconstruction, and deconstruction becomes apostasy.
But asking “Where is God?” in light of restless evil does not have to end in exile.
Asking, “Where is God?” can be a beginning; a seed of immovable faith.
Where is God? – In Me
God was with us in the beginning. His with-ness was the essence of Garden peace; His with-ness was the honor of man.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day… (Genesis 3:8)
There was no interruption, no rift between God and humanity. There was only peace and presence. But in this place of peace God gave humanity a choice – a choice, as C.S. Lewis said, was necessary:
“If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” Mere Christianity
The will was freed by God in His sovereignty and power, imparted like a king grants authority to a servant. And with this power man chose to depart from the very source of goodness, the ultimate and only place for happiness – because there can be no happiness apart from the breath of Life.
So here we are today, in a world of humans who choose to use their power – a power magnified when bent to good – to seek a happiness apart from God. The problem with unhinged happiness? Every man must decide it for himself. When man is the decider of what makes him happy, happiness may be bought at the cost of others’ lives. Grief upon grief, evil upon evil occur because happiness apart from God can only be selfish. Happiness may become hoarding money when people are poor, or hoarding power when people are starving, or taking sex when it victimizes another image-bearer of God. There is no objective standard for happiness apart from our Creator, and all the world wanders in this aimless pursuit.
So where is God?
God’s presence left the Garden because of the sin that stained it. But with no delay, He put into motion a plan to bring His presence back to earth, among His people, available for those who wanted to walk with Him in the cool of the day. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – they carried the flame of God’s faithfulness forward, and at last a Tabernacle was built (Ex. 35-40).
Then a Temple (1 Kings 6): God’s presence with His people.
But once again, God’s presence was not deemed valuable enough. His with-ness was not seen as the treasure it was. The Temple was destroyed, God’s glory departed… but only for a little while. These earthly shadows of a heavenly reality hinted at the promise to come. For this weary world a Son would rise with healing in its wings, a hope that conquers the restless evil, and a restoration for that which was lost.
“Behold, the virgin will be with child
and they will call Him Immanuel”
The with-ness once gone has been eternally given. The presence of God, once captive to a tabernacle, now “tabernacles” within every person who bows her heart to fear God’s name. God is with us. God’s presence in this evil world is within you – and me.
Where is God? – In the World
In John 14, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, who previously came upon Old Testament saints for specific tasks and times. But this time, the Spirit will rest with us always, enabling us to bring the with-ness of God to our cities and towns:
“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them… “All this I have spoken while still with you.26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:23, 25-27)
We look at the evil and wonder, Where is God? He is here. In us, in the world.
We ask, “Why doesn’t God just fix it all?” But to ask this is to ignore the greater truth: He is fixing it all. And He’s using us to do it.
When the tears fill my eyes at yet another grief, and I feel overwhelmed by the restless evil that is in this world, I am no longer driven to doubt; I am driven to action. Because the grief in my heart is not a product of my own ideas but a product of the presence of God in me. The grief you feel for the evil you see is God’s power at work in you motivating you to be the difference. Empowering you to bring the presence of God to every wrong and fallen thing you touch. You are the tabernacle of God in your community. You, and I, are the answer to evil.
He does not give as the world gives. He does not give hollow promises and short-lived solutions. Immanuel gives peace. He makes a home with those He loves, and sends them out to the loved ones lost:
“Then Jesus came to them and said,“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
He is at work always, restoring, redeeming. And He is using us to accomplish it. He tells us to go and make disciples – to go and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the poor, rescue the unwanted, tend to the sick – and says I am with you always not as an addendum or an aside.
I am with you always is the REASON.
Because He is here, overcoming evil, we do the work of overcoming evil with Him.
Where is God in the grief?
In me, in the world.