Updated: Sep 11
Where is God?
Where is God when we suffer, and things go wrong?
Is God really here?
I know that God is present in the world. I know that God is good. I know that God is a presence powerful enough to create and sustain the entire created universe. But I also know that how we think about power is much different than God.
When we ask the question, “where is God,” and "why do we suffer," what we’re really asking is, “why isn’t God doing what I think he should.” When we ask the question that way, then we can begin to unlock the answers.
Sometimes, when we ask that question, we’re really asking “why isn’t God favoring me or my group over others.” It’s an ironic question, because it’s both what we often think makes God good and evil. When God favors us, we can think that is good. But, when God favors others, we can think that is evil. Whether we admit it or not, we often judge the goodness of God based on how he lines up with our personal agenda. But a God big enough to love the entire universe can’t be that small. We would expect a God who is truly good to seek the good of all things, in all things, and not just in our things. A God that big looks much different than a God who simply favors me.
In the day to day struggle of a world that doesn’t always look that good, safe, or loving, it's easy to doubt God’s goodness, and God’s effectiveness. When we question God, what we’re really confronting is the chasm between our perspective and God’s. If we can realize that, we can give ourselves grace to question without always expecting to understand. There is nothing wrong with inviting God to show us more about who God is, how God works, and why the world is the way it is. There is something unhealthy with demanding God fit within our ability to understand. If God is powerful enough to create worlds with words, then we can easily admit that what God understands is far beyond us. It's important to approach our questions with the understanding that God's perspective is much higher than ours. And, when we understand that God is attempting to balance our good with the good of all, we can find even greater grace for the reality that God’s perspective will not always make sense within our small frame of reference.
But the question can be still asked; “If God is so powerful and loving, why is the world so messed up.”
We’ve all heard this idea expressed in one way or another; “if God is good, why is the world evil?” It can be said that if God were good, and powerful, the world would not be evil, and therefore the reality of an evil world reveals an evil God, or no God at all. But the truth is, the world is not evil because God is evil, the world is evil because God is good.
How could a good God allow for an evil world?
If God’s desire for humanity was perfect obedience to a perfect set of holy morals, then God would have created us to follow those rules perfectly? But He didn't. God created us to be able to choose to follow His good ideals, or not. God created us to be free moral agents, able to choose to do right or wrong, and also able to choose love or hate. In any relationship, the freedom of choice is fundamental. Any relationship where choice is not allowed is abusive and oppressive. If God created us in such a way that forced our love and obedience, where we were incapable of choosing anything else, then we would not be able to love or obey.
Choice is the chaos factor.
Love must allow for evil, or it would be evil itself.
The idea that God should force everyone to do only what is good is Divine Rape.
Is God powerful enough to force us to do what he wants? Yes! Is God loving enough not to force us to do what he wants? Yes! That is why I believe that only a good God could create a world where evil is possible. An evil God would simply force us to do what he wanted. That is Divine Rape.
Forced love is not love. The freedom to choose is always inherent in love, by necessity. God created us for love, not for automated obedience. It is for this reason that a loving God created a world where evil is possible, in order to also create the possibility for good. For good to happen, it must be a choice. Any kind of forced action is oppressive. God forcing us to do anything would be evil, and God is not evil. In light of this, when we approach the question “where is God,” we must begin from a different place. We are no longer asking why a good God could allow for such evil. Now we must ask, how does a good God deal with evil.
God is always about what God is about, not what we want him to be about. We must learn to align ourselves with God, and stop asking God to align himself with us. But what is God about?
God is about is the good of all things.
How can God be for us and our enemies? How can God be for the oppressed and the oppressor? How can God be for the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the insider and the outsider, the popular and the pariah? How can God be for capitalism and socialism, democracy and dictatorships, democrats and republicans, Buddhists and Christians, the religious and the atheist? Is God big enough to balance such huge, apparently opposing energies? I hope so.
A God big enough to be for me and my enemy is good, because that’s a God big enough to still love me when I am the enemy, when I am the one in the wrong. A God who does not take sides or only favor the “good” is a great relief, because at times we’ve all been in the wrong. We’ve all messed up, made mistakes, and been on the wrong side of something. If God is not big enough to encompass the good and the bad, then God is not big enough to love me, because I am both good and bad.
A God big enough to love us at our worst is the only God good enough to walk us into something better.
A God powerful enough to create and sustain all life, who is also good enough to love everything, is a God who reveals a very different presence of power than what we’re used to.
God is about power-with, not power-over.
We often understand power as hierarchy. Power is something we have over others, or others have over us. What we often want is for God to give us power over; power over our enemies, power over our problems, power over our limitations and struggles. But God is not that way. As long as we are attempting to understand God through the “power-over” paradigm, God won't make sense.
God is the ultimate power of the universe inviting us into his power, and not attempting to exert his power over us. We often fail to see God in the world, because of the way we understand power.
God is a loving presence attempting to draw all things into what is good.
God invites us to a kind of power that operates with others, for the good of others, while also balancing what is good for us.
The only true power we have is love.
Love is a mutual power.
Love is the power of giving.
Love connects us in a system where we are seeking the good of others, all others.
Jesus once said that the first will be last, and the last will be first. He also said we must become like little children to enter God’s kingdom. He told the powerful religious leaders of his day that “sinners” were getting into heaven before them, and he said that what we do to the least and lowest we do to God. In every way Jesus pointed to the outcast, the lowest, the last, the worst and said they were first in God’s view. What he was saying was that our power-pyramid was upside down to his. Jesus was saying that the most powerless were in the best position to take hold of God’s power because they already understood powerlessness in the world’s power system. To be first in God’s power we must become last in the power of the world, because they are opposite and opposing systems of power.
So, why is the world evil?
The world is evil because most of humanity has adopted the wrong power structure, and has helped create a world in opposition to what God intended. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. It is in surrendering our attempt to be powerful, to have power over others, that we learn how to become powerful for the sake of others. This is the essence of justice.
Justice is not taking power away from some to give it to others. Justice is not simply flipping the current power structure to create new oppressors and newly oppressed. It is not bringing the powerful down and raising the powerless up. That would merely keep the same bad cycle going. Justice is bringing everyone into an entirely different power structure where everyone has the same power, and no one is left behind. That is the power structure God has established, and why we miss it so much of the time.