I’m glad I’m not God. This is a thought I’ve found myself having several times over the past two months. Twice in the past six weeks, my beloved community has been on the national news, something I desperately wish we couldn’t claim. Six weeks ago, Hurricane Florence slammed the Carolinas, and although we’re 200 miles inland, my county was one of the hardest hit in South Carolina. Over twenty inches of rain caused flooding, sinkholes, and washed out bridges and roads. For once, we were the county crying out for disaster relief instead of being the one doing the helping. And then, just a few weeks later, a town in the next county over was devastated with the ambush of its police officers. Eight officers were shot; two lost their lives. Once again, my community was overwhelmed by the pain of unexpected suffering. Then, just this week, the county north of us had a high school student take a gun to school and kill another student. In the midst of all the grief and anger, I’ve heard more than one person ask, “Where is God?”
There’s not a simple answer, and certainly not one that can be completed in a short blog, but I’ve found myself responding with a question of my own. Could it be that we’re the ones who moved instead of God?
We know from Hebrews 13:5 that God promised He will never leave us or forsake us. We also know from Genesis that when God created the world, He gave humans the unique gift of freewill, meaning we can choose to worship God or deny His existence. We can govern our lives by His Word, or we can pick and choose what precepts we will follow and which ones we will say aren’t applicable to today’s culture.
Over the past twelve years, I’ve had the privilege of working with children from broken families. I cannot describe the joy it brings to help bring healing in a child’s life, who’s known countless heartaches and loss. Yet something I’ve had to learn is I can’t help everyone. Even when I can see the potential disaster ahead, if a child doesn’t want help, then there’s nothing I can do other than point the way and pray she turns to God. On more than one occasion I’ve had a young adult reach out to me after she hit rock bottom because she knew I was a safe person to whom she could turn.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve slowly changed from having a biblical worldview to a culturally-accepted worldview. Instead of God being the first One we turn to, He’s an afterthought when bad things happen. He’s our genie in a bottle we use when we want something or have a problem. Yet despite all of this, God still hasn’t given up on us.
If God were a person, He would have walked away a long time ago, but because of His great love, He still holds on, waiting for people to truly turn to Him. One of the Old Testament words for God’s love for His children means “to be attached to,”[i] and the imagery used is of a person grabbing ahold of the back of person’s shirt refusing to let go. God gives us opportunity after opportunity to turn to Him, but He never forces Himself on us. When we tell God we don’t want Him in our schools, jobs, entertainment, and government He says, “Okay. I’m not going to force myself on you. Just know that I love you, and I’ll still be here if you change your mind.”
God hasn’t moved. It’s us! And the world is getting darker because of it. So, where’s the hope? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself, and God has given me great comfort through the Old Testament. Even when Israel was at its worst and the people refused to worship God and repent no matter how obviously they needed Him, there were still individuals who loved God, and God used them to point others back to Him.
Where we are right now matters! Each of us has been placed here for such a time as this. We might not be able to change the government, schools, or even the Church, but we can study and know God’s Word, so we will know what He says about a situation. We can ask God to give us a biblical worldview rather than a cultural worldview. We can love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves so that we can point others to Him. We can be a light in a world that desperately needs the light of Christ. We can make a difference, but the choice is up to you and me.
So, have you moved?
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” ~ James 4:8
*For further reading on where God is when bad things happen, read http://www.erinelizabethaustin.com/blog/where-is-god9602547 and http://www.erinelizabethaustin.com/blog/peace-in-the-storm
[i] The Strongest NASB Exhaustive Concordance, pg.1397