NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 26, 2013

Where is God when trouble strikes?

In the Spirit
The Rev. Rusty Davis

---- — With all the tragedy that took place during the previous year, one would be hard-pressed to find a single soul who wasn’t happy to see it come to an end. The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School capped off a string of tragedies experienced in 2012, including the summer massacre in an Aurora, Colo., theater, as Batman enthusiasts settled in for a midnight premiere. Sandwiched in between those two tragedies, Hurricane Sandy brought heartache upon millions of people. One of the most devastating hurricanes in recent history, Sandy wiped out the shorelines in New York and New Jersey and slammed the region with billions of dollars in damages.

Events like these are enough to make even the most faithful among us wonder, “Where in the world is God in the midst of all this?” After pondering that question for quite some time I came up with a rather thought-provoking answer. God plays hide-and-seek with us when God wants to get our attention. That may sound odd to some, but I really believe our God hides in order to make himself known to us.

God hides in the strangest places and when God plays hide-and-seek, it can be so frustrating. As a child I would often get frustrated, angry, even cry because my friends were too well-hidden. We’ve all experienced the frustration of searching for something that we were almost certain should be in a particular place. And more importantly, we’ve known the desperation of seeking a God who had hidden himself from us so well that we could not find him.

But it is in these tragic times, in this day and age of disregard for human life, that we have to take comfort in the fact that God is not hiding because God doesn’t care about us. God is not hiding because there is nothing God can do to help us. God understands our pain but to hear his voice and feel his presence, we must seek him out.

The shepherds sought God out on a silent night and were able to hear his still, small voice coming from a manger. The voice of God could be heard in the temple when a 12-year-old boy spoke to the religious scholars of that day. That still small voice spoke during the darkness of daytime as well, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” A tired and hurting woman, grieving the death of one she cared about, openly weeps in a garden beside an empty tomb. Suddenly, she heard that voice when he simply said her name.

Surely some will ask, and rightly so, “That was then, and this is now. Where in the world is God right now?” Well, remember that our God is a God who hides in order to make himself known. And God hides in the strangest places! In the Word of the Gospel proclaimed in human speech and attached to the humble elements of water, bread and wine. If we are to find God, we have to let God be God. We must seek God where God has promised to be found. God promises to be found in God’s Word and Sacrament.

The Lord comes to us in such humble means as a person’s voice, a sprinkling of water, a crumb of bread and the tiny fruit of the vine, and that is a humbling realization. When we suddenly realize that this gracious God is here, right now, coming completely and totally to us through the Word and Sacraments, it is awesome, frightening, terrifying, amazing, imposing and humbling!

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The Rev. Rusty Davis is pastor of East Parish United Methodist Church, Salisbury, and People’s United Methodist Church, Newburyport. He is also chaplain of the Byfield Fire Department.