Reflection by Rev. Dr. M. Mani Chacko, General Secretary, The Bible Society of India
One of the questions that I face in times like COVID- 19 is, “Where is God?” I understand and deeply sympathize with the question. I do. But I need to ask why is it only in the hard times that we tend to ask this question? When the sun is shining, and times are good, and life is comfortable, and our team is winning, and our health is strong, why are we not plagued in those moments with the question, “Where is God?”
Well, the Bible tells us. It is because sin blinds us from the background of God’s goodness. So, when times are good, we tend to ignore God, but when times are bad, we tend to blame God. Sin blinds us from the background of God’s loving care that God gives every day—in the day of prosperity and in the day of adversity.
Nevertheless, the question is raised by me and us all during very critical moments like now as we live in a situation of ambiguity and uncertainty. Psalm 88 is a typical example we can look into. For the Psalmist, his troubles are overwhelming and he does not have the strength to face them (vss.3-4). He feels he is like one of those with whom God has no longer any dealings, neither remembered or cared for (vs.5). The Psalmist assumes he is suffering because God is angry with him. He feels the pressure of God’s wrath going over him like the waves of the sea or a river in flood(vs.7). We do not know what he has done to deserve God’s wrath. But it is even possible that he is wrong in interpreting his suffering as a sign of God’s wrath. Not only is the sufferer cut off from God, he is also cut off from his closest friends(vs.8). For some reason they find him an abomination. The darkness of the grave is drawing near and he can see no prospect of light. He has been crying out for deliverance to the one who could save him, but God has been silent. The Psalmist raises the question as to why God is hiding His face? (vs.14).
Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Britain’s most senior churchman and effectively the leader of Anglicans worldwide in a meeting at Bristol Cathedral, UK admitted that there are moments when he asks himself “Is there a God?” and “Where is God? He also said that Christians cannot explain why suffering exists in the world but that the answer was faith.
His remarks came in an interview conducted as part of a service at Bristol Cathedral, during a visit to the diocese. Asked whether, despite his high profile as a religious leader, he ever struggles with doubt, he said: “Yes I do”.
There have been four different approaches to this very pertinent question, “Where is God?”. The first approach is Deism, belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe. The Second approach is Theism, belief in the existence of a god or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe. The third approach is Atheism, lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. The fourth approach is Dualism, the religious doctrine that the universe contains opposed powers of good and evil, especially seen as balanced equals. The question “Where is God?” is relevant to all the advocates of the above approaches. A Deist would say “God is there but distant”. A Theist would say, “God is there, but here right in the midst of challenges and possibilities of life. An Atheist will refuse to accept the existence of God and therefore will say boldly “God is not there”. Yet there have been many atheists in human history who have confessed that there is some superior power which controls the world but is not bothered to know more than that conclusion. A Dualist will definitely say, “there is a God; in fact, there are two Gods”. Among all these approaches in the discussion about God, the question “Where is God?” becomes more disturbing to a Theist. A Theist believes that there is a God and God is there intervening in human history but yet he/she feels the absence of God many a time in life especially in contexts like COVID-19 when we see so many human lives have become extinct and so many are still struggling with the impact of the virus in several ways ! Among the Theists, some get disillusioned and deeply troubled. But there are also theists who are mature and deep in their spirituality that they are able to see God both in ups and downs of life. This affirmation that God is there and God is there even in what is happening in the world today is a far more helpful way in which one can face life. We live and we will continue to live despite all odds because God is there!
Where is God? Well, let me ask you … Where was Jesus? Remember Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). So, where was Jesus? In John 2 we find Him in Cana making wine at a wedding. But then in John 11, we find Him in Bethany crying tears at a funeral. Where is Jesus? He is at the wedding and at the funeral. And if you have seen Jesus, you have seen God. So, where is God?
- He is at the wedding and at the funeral.
- God is there in our good days and in our bad days.
- Because He is the God of Good Friday and the God of Easter Sunday.
- He is the God of the spectacular and God of the ordinary and mundane.
- He is the God of the hills and the God of the valleys.
- He is God in the midst of our laughter and in the midst of our tears.
- He is God when the market is up and God when the market is down.
- He is God in the light and God in the dark.
God is in both places—God is in all places. God is carefully and sovereignly in control of it all. God is our ever-present help in time of need. So, where is God? God is with us here and now.