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Where is God in the chaos?

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This week I am privileged to have two college students from California staying with me - we heard about Texas last night on the way home from the airport. ‘What in the world is going on, Christine?’ they separately asked me. How about you . . . frightened, unsure, tense or insecure? At best, we are beyond disturbed at the evil being perpetrated by human beings against their fellow human beings. For months, we have watched Ukraine in horror; of late, there was the Milwaukee shooting then Buffalo, and now Uvalde, Texas -children! The trouble is worldwide and too close to home! We watch politicians and newscasters trying to politicize the evil, even make sense of some of it, but there is no sense to be had. On a personal level, the chill of Cancer and the fight runs down our spines, the crushing devastation of financial need or ruin, the terrifying wreckage of young people taking their lives. . . What fear is rocking your wellbeing, robbing you of peace? We ask, ‘Where is God? Has he left the building?’ And, how do we get him back? In our heart of hearts, we know God is still on the throne, but how do we find him? When my friend who has lost her child climbs in bed at night and puts her head on the pillow, where is God? How does she feel him near?

The broader question is this: Where is God in our pain? One of the indelible impressions of my lifetime was walking around the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero in New York City. The names of those killed that fateful day, etched in bronze and backlit, all around the perimeter of the ponds about an acre in size took my breath away. People talked in hushed groups, some with flowers in hand for their lost loved ones . . . and it made me remember one of the best explanations I have read on the subject of ‘where is God in our pain?’ It was from Gordon MacDonald, a great Christian thinker and pastor/educator of our day, who spent time at the site, immediately following Nine-Eleven. Included in his journal are these thoughts: And more than once I asked myself—as everyone asks—is God here? And I decided that he is closer to this place than any other place I’ve ever visited. The strange irony is that, amidst this absolute catastrophe of unspeakable proportions, there is a beauty in the way human beings are acting that defies the imagination. Everyone—underscore, everyone—is everyone else’s brother or sister. There are no strangers among the thousands at the work site. Everyone talks, everyone cooperates, everyone does the next thing that has to be done. No job is too small, too humble, or, on the other hand, too large. Tears ran freely, affection was exchanged openly, exhaustion was defied. We all stopped caring about ourselves. The words “it’s not about me” were never more true. No church service; no church sanctuary no religiously inspiring service has spoken so deeply into my soul and witnessed to the presence of God as those hours last night at the crash site. In all my years of Christian ministry, I never felt more alive than I felt last night . . . as much as I love preaching the Bible and all the other things that I have been privileged to do over the years, being on that street, giving cold water to workmen, praying and weeping with them, listening to their stories was the closest I have ever felt to God. Even though it sounds melodramatic, I kept finding myself saying, “This is the place where Jesus most wants to be.”1 In some cases, our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being is at stake when we are in crisis. So, here’s what you and I must do: we must cling to life-giving truth, especially when life does not make sense. The psalmist wrote, The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”2 So, where is God? Right next to you; if you are his, he is within you—so reach for him! I have been teaching through a great book on prayer3 in which the author reminds us that prayer is the cry of our hearts and might only be spoken or cried in a single word, “Jesus!” Run to the Lord; invoke the power that is in his name. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.4 Perhaps your prayer is “Save me!” “Help me!” God comes in our humble desire for him - no long eloquent prayer required. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”5 These are truths I truly believe and so I share with you. . . we are not alone! “Never will I leave you-“6 Christian, the living Spirit of God is within you and that is why you are never without him. The brother of our Lord wrote, Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”7 And Jesus himself said, “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.”8 I assure you—God has not left the building. He has allowed us our free wills, to be sure; with those same free wills, we can now turn to him, pray and seek his comfort and strength. We must not allow ourselves to be paralyzed with fear or even heartache because God indeed is near, and he is with us. Find a community to pray with, I strongly encourage you. Then I pray you will be able to say It is Well: With love, Christine 1 – Finding God in Unexpected Places, Philip Yancey 2 - Psalm 34.18 3 - Praying Women, Sheila Walsh 4 - Proverbs 18.10 5 - Psalm 147.3 6 - Hebrews 13.5 7 - James 4.8 8 – John 14.27

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