In the wake of the Newtown, CT massacre, people are asking an obvious question: Where was God? Christians talk about an all loving, all-powerful God. So where was he? Doesn’t something like this undermine the Christian message? How can you believe in God when he doesn’t show up? This continues my meditation on the weakness of God.
People have asked these questions for centuries. They’re fair questions. If God exists and God is all-powerful, then logic tells us that bad things shouldn’t happen, right?
The weakness of God
When God doesn’t show up in the way we want him to, that’s what I call the weakness of God. Is God weak? No. But if we are honest, that’s how we feel.
This is what we need to know: God often comes in what seems like weakness. But he never ends in weakness. He comes in humility, but ends in greatness.
The value of weakness
The apostle Paul makes a radical statement in the Bible: “…power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Power is somehow brought to its full expression in weakness. This seems contradictory. It doesn’t make sense. What does power have to do with weakness? But Paul came to appreciate weakness. He wasn’t ashamed of it. It didn’t embarrass him. In fact he said…
Most gladly… I will …boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9,10
Paul had his share of trouble: persecution, shipwrecks, prison, left for dead. But he didn’t accuse God of abandoning him or of being weak. He came to appreciate that weakness provided an opportunity for God to show up in his life in unique ways. Maybe not the ways he always wanted, but present nonetheless.
Disillusioned with God
Many people turn to God because they are promised that God will solve all their problems. These people tend to be the ones that are offended when God doesn’t “show up.” No one ever told them that God allows suffering so they feel like the victim of “bait and switch”…they came to God thinking that God was a problem solver and now they are disillusioned. That is also why – when they read about 27 people being shot – they don’t have a theology that allows for that.
God with us
But the Bible doesn’t promise that God will only come in strength. Think about the first Christmas. It’s not a pretty story. There is oppression, poverty, and the slaughter of innocent children. When Jesus showed up, he didn’t solve any of that. He came in weakness: just a child. The Christmas story doesn’t tell us that God rescues us from problems. It tells us that God is with us in our problems.
Last Friday, evil shocked us. But let’s not run from it or accuse God of being weak. Let’s look to God to reveal himself in our suffering. God is a master at making good out of evil. The resurrection is the obvious example. Some people probably accused God of abandoning them the day after Jesus was crucified. But their doubt and questions were answered on Sunday.