Where is my God now?
It's a good question. My mother is dying. Aggressive cancer put her in the hospital in July. Treatment has been ineffective. They moved her to a nursing home for hospice watch earlier in the week, and just today they put her back in the hospital.
She lives in Florida. I'm in Indiana. I don't see any way to be with her, short of packing up my entire family and camping on her doorstep. I am the eldest of her natural children; my three younger siblings are there right now. My younger brother is adamant that I join them, and angry with me for not being there right now. My father has suffered through this from the beginning, helpless to do anything about it. This sucks.
Where is my God now?
I'm just hard-hearted enough that the death of strangers is a tragedy, but not one that causes me existential crisis. Losing my family is personal, and it feels like a personal betrayal of my faith. My parents served the ministry faithfully for years. They have sacrificed their comfort and security to help others and to spread the gospel. My family has been the focus of no fewer than three medically documented cases of dramatic spontaneous healing - miracles. What right has God to cause my mother this kind of suffering? What kind of reward is this for a life of faith, prayer, and sacrifice? Have we not earned his consideration? Is God actually a figment, or worse some malicious bastard? If God is real, what gives me the right to question him or even think these things?
Where is my God now?
This sucks. No question about it. But I have a choice to make. I can choose to believe that God does not exist. If I do so, it means my life has had some extraordinary circumstances in it, but that my mother's suffering and eventual passing is neither malicious nor meaningful in any lasting sense beyond the immediate consequences. A century from now, all of this will be forgotten. The only good we may accomplish occurs during our lifetime to benefit those we love. Beyond the veil is only oblivion.
I can choose to believe in any number of philosophies or religions. Most of them are variations on the themes of dharma, behavioral reward, or consequential physics. Most of them are experiential or existential in nature, applying only to oneself and one's own sphere of influence. They provide varying levels of comfort and condemnation. I have not yet found one that is internally consistent, objective, and rational, that also provides substantial hope and comfort. These are things I value: consistency, objectivity, rationality, hope, emotional comfort.
I can choose to be a Christian. I have found the Bible to be internally consistent, even when subjected to my very specific and sometimes antagonistic examination. It remains true that religious authority does not seem able to consistently interpret scripture, but I have found that these failings lie at the expression rather than the source, the man rather than the scripture.
The Bible is objective. It depicts historical events with accuracy, and then derives life lessons from those events. The Book of Revelation describes apocalyptic events, but the only instructions we are given simply reiterate previous commands.
The Bible is rational and practical. It recognizes physical need and logical construction. The underlying philosophy and behavioral framework are predicated upon a single commandment, and the expression is rock-solid in its clarity, even when the conclusions are distasteful or disagreeable. We are given two commandments by which to live: love God; love others and yourself. All other instruction derives from this.
The Bible is hopeful. The literary through-line of scripture is that mankind was created for a purpose - to love God. Mankind failed at that purpose - and God loved us in return anyway. Mankind recognized its inability to meet God on his own terms - and God came to us instead. This is powerful stuff.
The Bible provides emotional comfort. Scripture recognizes the imperfection of creation without whitewashing it. Scripture promises us that in this life we will experience difficulty, suffering, and death. Scripture abates all of this with the promise that our physical existence is only the beginning of an eternal life where difficulty, suffering, and death are absent. That our life has a purpose in that it glorifies our creator. That our ability to enjoy the presence of God and the company of our loved ones forever does not hinge upon our own ability to do good, but upon the all-encompassing love of our creator.
I and my family are suffering. Where is my God?
If I am to be honest, I must recognize that he is right here with me. That he has ordained this suffering for a purpose that I do not yet recognize. That he takes no joy in seeing it, and desires to bring comfort. That he will love me in spite of my less than gracious and less than selfless conduct during this time. That God recognizes that the promise of comfort to come does not diminish the impact and immediacy of my experience.
There are other factors to be explored in a systematic theology. There is the question of evil, the purpose of suffering, and the nature of election. All of that is addressed within the pages of scripture. Right now, all I can see is that I and my loved ones are hurting.
Where is my God?
He is waiting to comfort me.