Where Are You God?

Today's gospel reading is a familiar story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It's a story about healing, it's a story about faith, and it's a story about God's love for his children.

And imbedded within this story is a profoundly important question, "Where are you God?" Essentially Martha was asking Jesus where he had been. "If you had been here, my brother would not have died," she said. She was upset, her brother Lazarus had died and she knew that if Jesus would have been just been there, Lazarus might still be alive.

Mary, also upon her arrival to the tomb, fell at Jesus feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

The questions being asked by Mary and Martha are typical questions we the faithful ask in times of need, suffering, and uncertainty. Where are you God, becomes our battle cry as we so desperately want a loved one to see the error of their ways, to be freed from suffering, or to be healed from a life-changing illness.

I sensed this question being asked several months ago by some who were present at my Grandmother's funeral. Oh God, where were you when Nannie needed you most? I hurt, death seems so permanent, and I want assurance Nannie went to heaven.

And we hear similar questions being asked throughout the world, by both the believer and non-believer. Where are you God, as war and conflict have become the norm in my country? Where are you God as my loved one suffers with cancer? Where are you God, when I am in need of food and shelter? Where are you God in my time of uncertainty and hopelessness? Where are you God as my son seems to be wondering hopelessly looking for purpose? This question, "Where are you God," more so than any other question tests our faith to the very core.

So why didn't Jesus rush to Lazrus side in his time of need, after all Lazrus was one of Jesus' best friends. Did Jesus really love his family and friends or is the Bible simply giving lip service to these hallmarks of Jesus life?

The truth is Jesus loved his family and he loved the family of Lazrus. In fact he stayed with them often. Jesus knew their pain, as he knows ours, but he didn't respond immediately to their request. But we can be assure that his delay in responding did have a purpose, a divine purpose.

God's timing, especially his delays, may make us think he's not answering questions, or is not answering our requests the way we want him to. But God will meet all our needs according to his perfect schedule and purpose.

I can think of several times in my own life when I had a need and I asked God to fulfill it. Well, in most cases God didn't respond right away. Sometimes I got mad, I couldn't understand why God wouldn't meet my need.

Then I can remember God meeting my need at a later date. And when I think about those circumstances I can say, "thankfully God did not meet my need when I wanted him to because, as it turns out, either that wasn't what I really needed, or it would have created more of a problem then I was encountering at that time." But God did meet my need, at a time and place when it was appropriate.

Maybe you have experienced this same sort of thing. Some of you have shared joys in your life with me, and in many of those cases I can remember praying for those needs a few months before, in one setting or another. We sometimes forget, as we are rejoicing, that the joy is a result of a prayer request made months or even years before. God was present, God did hear, and God did respond.

After having a couple of these experiences myself, the light bulb finally went on and I realized, it's not an issue of God meeting our needs, that will happen, the issue is placing our trust in God knowing that he will meet our needs when it makes sense from Gods perspective. God carries the big picture of our lives around in his wallet, so God knows best what we need and when we need it.

We also have to be open to this understanding and look at how God does work in our lives. All too often we focus on the negative rather than the positive. It's the glass half full or half empty analogy. No doubt about it God is at work among us all the time. The question is, are our eyes and hearts open to his presence?

It's difficult for people, not raised as Christians, to recognize and worship a God who seems to allow pain and suffering to come to those he professes to love and care for. And regrettably this is one reason people today find it hard to come to the Christian faith. They can't grasp the concept that it's God's timing not ours, God is in control we aren't.

Of course we know that God does not cause the pain and suffering, but you can see very easily how someone from outside the faith looking in might see things from a totally different perspective. This is also true of those folks who are Christian but chose to live their lives on the fringe of the faith.

In our fast paced society and apparent high sense of urgency about life, we are looking for the quick, highly visible, and easy answers for life's problems, so that we can keep moving forward. Because we are so competitive today, we are afraid if we slow down too long, to gain knowledge or understanding, our competition will pass us by, or we're afraid we'll be viewed as lazy or weak.

And I can relate to this pretty well. Some say I have a type "A" personality. And most of you know me pretty well by now and know that I am competitive in certain arenas, and I do like to have a lot of balls in the air and be constantly moving. This is just the way I am. Although I prefer to think of myself more as a type B+ rather than an A.

But anyway, I understand why some people who have no faith find it difficult to accept the Christian faith, because on the surface it looks, sounds and feels like a passive faith. They equate the Christian faith to sitting in Church on Sunday morning, rather than seeing the faith as an active lifestyle. Therefore, Christianity isn't the kind of thing that gets their motors revved.

But the truth is Christianity is not passive it's very much active because it is a lifestyle that is full of action. And it's in the midst of all this action that we find God working in us, through us, and with us; often times quietly behind the scenes. This is the message we need to communicate to a very active generation of people.

This "got-to-have-the-answer-now" attitude seeps over to our spiritual life as well. We want answers and we want them now. And for heavens sakes the answers must be easy to understand, requiring little thought or reflection.

But it doesn't happen this way. We can't simply pick up one book whether it be the "Bible" or a "How to be a Christian" book and get all you need to know in just a few short hours. Christianity is not like a math class, where once you take the class you know how to add and subtract.

When we take a birds eye view of Christianity we begin to realize it takes a lifetime of study and practice to only begin to understand, it's a lifestyle requiring study, worship, prayer, and fellowship to comprehend. And just when we think we understand, God throws us a curve ball, requiring us to study, worship, pray, and fellowship some more.

It's a continual cycle or process that grows our faith, and moves us to a deeper and meaningful relationship with God. And for this effort what do we get, a house, a boat, a vacation, no? We receive the blessings of joy, peace, a life full of hope, and the ability to deal with difficult situations. We also receive the very real blessing of recognizing God's presence among us. Our senses are better tuned to God's ever-present spirit.

A woman standing next to the bed of her sick child raised her arms and look to the heavens crying out, "Where are you God?" God replied, "I'm down here among my people." I'm with the doctors and nurses who are taking care of your child, prolonging her life, and making her comfortable.

I'm here with those who are bringing you your meals, so you can stay by your child's bedside. I'm with your husband as he paces the hallways looking for answers. I'm with your church as they pray for you and your family daily. I'm with you as I feel and hear your pain.

"Are you with my child God?" "Yes I am. Know that I am with your child throughout this ordeal and I will welcome her into my heavenly kingdom to reside for all eternity. I will also be with you following your child's death until you are reunited with her for all time." Where are you God? "I'm here among my people."

This illustration, is a common one, and one many of us can relate to. Perhaps it's not a child dying but a spouse, a loved one, a friend, or even a pet. This story is played out many times every day. The question of "where is God," is asked, perhaps not verbally, but is asked in our hearts, time and time again.

Is there anything wrong with asking this question? I don't think so, as long as we remain open to the answer, and recognize God is all around us, in the people we encounter, and in the situations that come our way.

The truth is because God is our creator; he knows everything about us, including our needs. And God is intimately involved with all aspects of the world he created, and wants to be intimate and active in our lives as well.

God, the creator of all things, points to the world and says, "I have enough power to create all of this. Don't you think I have enough power to address the things and situations in your life?"

Reflect on this statement for just a moment. God says, "I have enough power to create all of this. Don't you think I have enough power to address the things and situations in your life?"

If we believe God created this entire earth, created us as well, and allowed his son to die for us, why wouldn't we think he has the power and the desire to meet our needs as well.

How soon we forget that God has promised to be with us always, even when we have a need and we don't feel it's being met, or is not being met as we conceived it being met.

As Christians we live with God's promise that he is always with us. Wherever we are, whatever we do, and whatever we are going through, God is there feeling and seeing all that we do. God is our anchor, God is our hope, and God is there when everyone one else fails us.

Oswald Chambers said, "Whenever we have difficulty, we are in danger of blaming God. But in reality it's not God who is wrong, it's us. As long as we strive to serve two ends, God, and ourselves, there is perplexity. Our attitude must be one of complete reliance on God. When once we get there, there is nothing easier than living the saintly life. Difficulty comes when we want to seize the authority of the Holy Spirit for our own ends."

Just look around, God is among us today. God was present in the baptism we took part in this morning. God is present in the smiles we greet one another with. God is present in the kind word we offer to one another. God is present in the comfort we provide to a friend or family member in need.

God where are you? "I'm here among my people!"


Read other messages by Pastor Wade