Where is God when I hurt? Or the silence of God!
by Gini Crawford, MSW
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When you are suffering do you find yourself asking, “Where is God, when I am hurting so much? He seems so distant!” When suffering happens to us (or others), we can have some soul searching questions about where God is, can’t we? In part 1 (“Why does God allow us to suffer?”) and now in part 2, I am giving you some Biblical insights that should help you make some sense out of suffering. In this devotion, I am going to share what the Holy Spirit has shown me concerning where God is when we hurt or why He seems to be silent when we seemingly need Him the most.
When you think and feel things like, “I am hurting so much but I don’t feel God’s presence! It is hard for me to think of Him much less pray to Him in my hurt! I feel He has deserted me because He doesn’t seem to answer my cry for help!” You need to understand (if you don’t already know) that from a psychological and physical standpoint, when you hurt your mind doesn’t think very clearly, because your mind is mentally trying to handle the pain. Your emotions are screaming pain and hurt so it isn’t easy to feel anything but what you are experiencing. When you are suffering, anxiety and depression can also weigh on your feelings and outlook on life. So when you feel like He isn’t there when you are suffering, you need to realize no matter how you feel He is with you!
What we need to do is have a solid understanding of what Jesus Christ did and does for us. This will enable us to know (even if we don’t feel like it) God was, and is with us (in the most intimate way), as we suffer. We will also through this knowledge appreciate why and for what purpose God allows us to suffer. In the rest of this devotion I hope to give you this knowledge about Jesus.
Romans 8 makes it clear, God sacrificed His Son, so He could be with us through all of life. On the other hand, Jesus (who is God) willingly allowed Himself to be sacrificed for us. If I gave up my son’s life for someone, wouldn’t that show you I wanted to be with that person more than anyone else? If I gave up my life for someone, wouldn’t that tell you how much I loved and cared for that person?
But God has shown us how much he loves us---it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! Romans 5:8 GNT
Why did Jesus Christ need to die for us so we could be with Him? You see, before we are Christians, we are eternally dead to God (or separated from Him) because of our state of death from our sin. Jesus Christ when He died on the cross paid the penalty for those sins. What we need to do is, believe He died on the cross for our sins. That belief in Jesus makes us go from the state of eternal death to eternal life with Him. The most well-known Bible verse, John 3:16, tells us this principle.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (or live forever with God). NIV
When we have believed in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit (God Himself) comes to live within us. I think we would all agree God couldn’t be with us any more intimately than living within us. So as you and I suffer He is suffering too.
The Bible can seem contradictory to us concerning suffering and who God says He is, unless we realize what Jesus has suffered for us. Jesus Christ took the suffering we deserved (in Hell) when He died on the cross for us. Jesus as God also could have stopped any of His suffering immediately, but He patiently endured His suffering for us. He also has never asked us to go through anything He hasn't. Where would we be if Jesus hand't suffered for us? So let’s take a look at how Jesus suffered for us.
How do you feel when you are suffering and people desert you, even people who should love you? From His night before the crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane on through His death the next day, almost all Jesus’ friends and family deserted Him (Mark 14–15). God the Father even abandoned Him, when the punishment for all the sins ever committed fell upon Jesus as He was dying on the cross. Since God is holy and can have nothing to do with sin, He separated Himself from His Son in those hours. When darkness fell upon the earth, it seemed God was silent to His Son’s cry…
At noon the whole country was covered with darkness, which lasted for three hours. At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why did you abandon (or forsake) me?" …. With a loud cry Jesus died. Mark 15:33-34,37 GNT
Remember when God seems silent or not there in your suffering, He hasn’t forsaken you! (Jesus was forsaken by God on the cross, so you would never be forsaken by God!) And in this seemingly silent time, remember God is taking your suffering and producing things of glorious eternal value for you and others (2 Corinthians 4:17). This life and its sufferings are but a vapor … but heaven is forever!
A neat insight from the knowledge that Jesus died so we could live with Him in heaven, comes from John 14:1-3. In these verses, Jesus is talking about preparing a special place for each of us, so we can be where He is, in eternity.
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:1-3 NASB®.
Have you ever thought that Jesus is now preparing a dwelling for you in heaven, so you can live with Him? Does this show you how much He wants to be with you? Remember it was His suffering that gives you a home in heaven instead of eternal agony in hell.
I think we all forget (at least at times) that the God of the universe through Jesus experienced all the hurt and pain we have had. This isn’t just because He is God, and is all-knowing and always present. It is because He physically and psychologically went through the experiences of this life. On this earth He was fully human as well as fully God. Can you imagine how it must have been for the God of the universe to allow Himself to become one of us? I think that in itself was a huge sacrifice!
As God Himself He could have lived a life fit for a king on this earth (Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!) and then died for us. However, Jesus wanted to truly be able to sympathize with us in our trials, so He chose a life that allowed, even promoted, great suffering: He knows the hunger and the frustrations of poverty, because He chose to be born into a poor family. He understands how it feels to be ugly and ignored, because He chose a human body that was unattractive. He personally knows how hurtful it is to live in a world of death, because early on He experienced the death of His human father. He also lived with the agony of death all around Him like we do. He understands how it hurts to be hated just because people don’t understand you or are jealous of you. He understands how it is to be extremely weary and not be able to sleep, to be sick and have no place to stay, to be cold and hot, thirsty and hungry and so on. He knows how hard it is to be insulted, even spit upon, by the people who should be respecting you. He has experienced the pain of rejection that leads people to even torture you. He comprehends how it feels to be completely innocent, yet crucified for the guilty ones, who wanted His death. He knows the agony of being beaten and whipped beyond human endurance. He has experienced the pain and humiliation of being stark naked and nailed to a cross, in front of the very people who thought He deserved this. He has had every bone and muscle in His body screaming for relief from pain but never getting it. He knows how it feels to suffer and die for the people you love but who could care less about you. (Isaiah 53:1-12)
There are also 3 circumstances where Jesus suffered in ways none of us will ever experience. He took the punishment for all sins ever committed upon Himself, and since He is holy like God the Father, the degree of anguish from this must have been awful! Jesus and God are one! So what was the severity of the suffering, when God the Father separated Himself from Jesus those dark hours? I wondered if it felt like His whole being was being ripped apart. How much suffering and agony did Jesus go through when He took the consequence of every sin ever committed upon Himself? (This would mean that all suffering and pain through out the ages fell on Him … the punishment for all violent and immoral acts was upon Him… all sinful thoughts, words, deeds and so on fell upon Him … God’s wrath also was upon Jesus as He was taking our punishment for our sins as He hung on that cross. ) I think we could safety say, Jesus suffered beyond our human comprehension just because He loves us, and truly wants to be a part of everything in our lives.
He also allowed Himself to experience human weaknesses, unmet desires and needs, and temptations (but without sin), just like you and me. He experienced everything so He could fully sympathize with us.
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted … For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 2:17-18 & 4:15-16 NASB®
The word sympathize in Hebrews 4:15 is formed from two Greek words, which mean “together with and to suffer”. We could say sympathize here means, because Jesus has experienced all the suffering we have - He does suffer along with us! So when you are suffering remember, whether you feel like He is with you or not, He is! And that He understands …
If the meaning of sympathize didn’t wow you enough, did you know right now, Jesus is in eternity interceding for you?
Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 NASB® see also Romans 8:27 & 34
The word intercession means what you think it would – pray for, intervene, support, talk to, decide for, ask on behalf of and act as go-between for. Jesus is praying for and supporting you constantly as you suffer, as well as when you simply live life. He is also deciding if the suffering (or anything) you will go through is what you need for your absolute best, for the present as well as for your future here and in eternity. His decisions are being made from an eternal perspective and are made by knowing what everything you experience will do to you.
When we have suffered something similar to someone then we can actually feel and comprehend their pain and hurt. Can’t we? He has experienced what we have suffered, so this allows Him to truly comfort us as we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1 encourages us by saying, His comfort is abundant for us as we suffer. This is because He has suffered for us!
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25 NASB®
Does it give you encouragement to think Jesus suffered for you, and is always suffering with you, wanting to comfort you? It does me!
I think you would all agree, death brings a lot of the suffering on this earth. A dear cousin of mine, who was like a sister to me while growing up, just died from cancer at 51. Yes, I am in mourning over the hurt of her death, and have moments when I ask God why? Yet, I know Karen is in Jesus’ presence. And she is feeling the joy and peace I long for, but it escapes me for now, because I am chained to this fallen earth. God isn’t mourning like I am, but is feeling like we would when a beloved child who we have been waiting years for, comes home. He does understand my grief and pain over death because He has experienced it spiritually as well as physically Himself (John 11).
Let me remind you, God very much did something about death. He stepped out of eternity and defeated our frightful enemy death by His death. He suffered for us by living and dying on this earth. Because of this, death will never be our enemy or our punishment. Death has become something glorious to Christians! This is because it is the means by which we escape suffering and go home to be with Him!
Life Application: I need to warn you, if you leave God out of your suffering, there is no guarantee the suffering will do the good it could do! And when you leave God out, you leave out the One Who loves you, who suffered for you, who has the only words and actions that bring eternal life and everlasting hope and peace, and who has the only power to enable you to endure for an eternal benefit. In James 1:2-4 we are encouraged to rejoice over trials because they bring about maturity in our life. In other words, if we allow God, He uses suffering in our lives to mold us into a beautiful godly woman that has Jesus’ character and is outfitted for life in heaven (Revelations 19:7-8). Mediate on: Isaiah 53 and Romans 8:15-39
I also need to remind you of a very important principle: When you are suffering you need to ask God if your sin is causing you to suffer. Even if it isn’t your own sin that is bringing suffering into your life, you need to still ask the Holy Spirit to search your mind and heart for sin (Psalm 139:23-24). This is because when anything that is hard hits us, it seems to be awfully easy to start sinning (such as being unforgiving or gossipy).
Never be afraid of confessing your sin because Jesus paid the price for your sins on the cross! However, be very afraid when you refuse to agree with God about your sin, because then you are calling God a liar (1 John 1:8-9)!
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