Where was God when...? How would you answer?

(SeanO) #1

A very common question that arises in apologetics is 'Where was God when…?" There are many ways that blank could be filled in. Where was God when 9/11 happened? Where was God when the boat with refugees aboard sank?

If you only had a few minutes to respond, how would you answer that question? Have you ever had to answer that question in your own life?

The most terse answer I have ever heard was in a news interview and the Christian said, “God was on the cross.” Looking forward to hearing your guys’ thoughts.

(Natalia Love) #2

Hi Sean,
I’m afraid I don’t have a proper answer to your questions here but in line of your questions wanted to share this video of Mike Huckabee - what he answered when he was asked this question.

(Kathleen) #3

It would depend greatly upon the context of the question and the questioner, but I might answer the question with a question such as: What do you imagine God’s job to be? (Obviously that could be an extremely insensitive question to ask in certain contexts, but it could work in others!)

(SeanO) #4

@KMac I agree, in the right setting that could be a great question. What is God’s purpose in creating us? Why are we here? Can suffering be part of God’s purpose? We so easily assume all suffering cannot have any beneficial end and that God’s goodness in eternity cannot ‘wipe away every tear’ so the suffering of this world is ‘nothing compared to the glory of God revealed in Christ Jesus’.

(C Rhodes) #5

That’s a question that is wading through a great deal of pain. When my children are in pain, their first reaction is, I should have been there. It is my job to protect them, didn’t I still love them? I immediately reach for them and soothe the tears. I suppose that should be my first answer to a heart that feels GOD has not fulfil His purpose in the World.

Sometimes, my human heart resents such accusations against the Creator. Who, has been patiently tending to a World that routinely rejects Him. Often the Lord reminds me He does not need me to defend Him. If there is a pause in my answer, its only because I am asking how to navigate the pain. How to get in there and give a much needed soothing.

It works wonders for my babies. Once they sense my empathy, then I can begin to unpack their illogical response. Maybe the best thing to do, is to allow people to be afraid, it is often at the core of anger. Once we have comforted, then we can unpack the response and show through our personal testimony and scriptural references the surety of GOD’s presence in this World.

People need to be reminded that the Love of GOD is steadfast. For the hurting and for the hurter. I have spanked many a bottom of an offending toy. But when the experience has concluded, my children will play with that toy again. They know despite the hurt, they still retain the mastery of that toy, but they also learn the necessary caution needed to remain safe; and owie-free. By grace we can do the same for all the children of GOD. But, they get to chose.

(Rob Lundberg) #6

I think the first step is to bridge the understanding of what the questioner means by “God.” The reason for this is because many people have a view of God that is all over the board when it comes to their understanding what kind of God exists. If you want to see this confirmed check out the video highlights on Youtube for the video, “Mining for God.” We just bought this video, and will be looking to do some showings locally here in Fredericksburg, VA. Getting back. . .

In responding to this question, it is important for the questioner to understand the attributes of the God that we speak of as being, spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, moral, personal, intelligent, sustainer, Creator, and First Cause of the existence and design of the universe. So my first question to the person would be, “when you say God, what kind of God do you believe exists, or what is your understanding of God?”

Once we get to who is asking the question, because it then becomes a moral question. I will leave it here, and follow up on any comments on these thoughts here.

(SeanO) #7

@roblundberg So, let’s say the questioner accepts the Biblical view of a God who is the Creator of all things and is all powerful, good, wise and omnipresent. There question is, why did this God who had the power and ability and compassion necessary to intervene not do so?

(Rob Lundberg) #8

Without getting into what I call David Hume’s “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” syllogism, the issue then turns to the ethic of love in light of God’s omnipresence. If the person is willing to accept that God was present at X event (i.e., 9/11 or any of the violent shootings we have seen), we have draw in the fact the God is loving in the midst of such violence. That is going to be the hardest part of the conversation. Cutting to the chase without getting a whole lot of details; God is loving and if this is the case, He created man free. Creating man as a free creature, means that God permitted the free creature to misuse that free to commit acts of evil.

But then, the rest of the story. God also permitted His Son to undergo acts of evil upon Himself by the free creature to pay for our transgressions against Him. That is what I believe is the greatest paradox of the Christian faith. . . the cross. An act of evil committed upon One who knew no sin nor committed any sin, was displayed on the cross of Calvary, where God the Father took that act of evil upon Christ and made the greatest good for our redemption.

I have more details in the following post: https://roblundbergapologetics.com/?s=Three+Faces+of+Evil.

(Ann Ruvindi Nimna Jayakody) #9

I read a story once , can’t remember specific details or who is the author cause I was only a few years old at that time but the gist is …
It talks about a man who was walking along the seashore, he looks back and he sees that there was only one set of footprints the entire time. He cries aloud to God , where were you when … and he goes onto list some situations, God replies

During this … and that … situation I was there …
There is only one pair of footprints cause I was carrying you all along , those are my footprints my son…

God’s love expressed through Jesus , on the Cross , and so much more … I suppose

Gen 22
Psalms 23,91
And pretty much everywhere in the Bible to be frank

Thé cross is the right answer ( shortest )
Because Jesus is the only way , everything points to him , even our questions of when was he there …

(Ann Ruvindi Nimna Jayakody) #10

But did he not intervene , with his one and only begotten Son , giving himself as a ransom for many ?

(SeanO) #11

@RuviJ Indeed! I agree that it is such a wonderful truth that Jesus is Immanuel - “God with us”. So often we feel alone in our suffering, but the Scriptures are clear that is not true - Jesus understands our suffering and God is always willing to draw near to those who call upon His name. He is our Shepherd and walks with His sheep through every dark valley and every sickness and every heartache - leading us up to the mountain of God where there are no more tears or trials or pain.

(Tim Behan) #12

@SeanO Love that answer “God was on the Cross”. If you only had one second, that’s the answer to give, isn’t it. Brilliant.

I think the approach you’re going to take is always going to differ on your relationship with the person and what you know of their particular circumstances. Pastorally this question will be different to someone who was at the “event” in question versus someone who is just asking to come up with a justification for it one way or another.

Obviously we want to end up talking about Jesus on the cross as everyone above agrees with. One way I tend to think about getting there is with something like “Are there any other events that you would want God to intervene with?”, or “To what level would you want God to intervene?”. The aim being for them to see that when you stop one injustice (i.e. Mass Murder), why isn’t he also stopping slightly lesser evils (i.e. just a single murder, manslaughter, domestic violence, lying, cheating… all the way down to pulling someone’s pigtails). The question is, does the questioner want God to remove our free will so that evil cannot be committed at all? I would think not… so how has God dealt with the problem? That is where we find our Lord and Saviour Jesus, hanging on the cross, dying in our place and saying “It is finished”, that we might eventually see a world without the pain and suffering that permeates this one.

Great question @SeanO.

(SeanO) #13

@tsbehan Thank you for those thoughts. I certainly think that the ability to make genuine choices is part of gaining a fuller understanding of this question. If we cannot truly choose, we cannot truly love. And in a world where can choose, some people will make harmful choices. That does not address natural evil, but it is certainly an important point regarding moral evil.

(Joshua Spare) #14

A similar response is found in Elie Wiesel’s book Night, in recounting a particularly gruesome experience (I care not to share it here, as it is especially horrific. However, if you do care to read the account, it is at the end of the fourth chapter, page 62 in my edition). In short, the prisoners have to watch a hanging, and Wiesel writes:

Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“Where is God now?”
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
“Where is He? Here He is–He is hanging here on this gallows…”

I think this apologetic can be especially powerful for some, as they are able to see Christ suffering with them and having suffered for them.

That said, I struggle to use this apologetic, as it seems to require a certain degree of empathy. I have, in all honesty, had a very easy life, having had very little about which to morn or lament. As such, it seems decidedly callous offer such a remedy when I have experienced so little pain myself, and seems safer to stick to the more “heady,” philosophical responses. My question is then, would it be callous or disingenuous to offer such a response to the question? Or is there a heart-felt manner in which to offer this?

(SeanO) #15

@jspare That is a great point. When someone is in the midst of suffering, as we are all aware from Romans 12, sometimes the best thing to do is just weep with those who weep. It also depends on whether or not that person is opening up their heart to hear what we have to say. When someone is grieving is not the right time to stick in our 2 cents, but if they ask us directly: “Why would God allow this to happen? Where is He right now?” Perhaps we could use an approach similar to the following:

1 - Share the reality that Jesus suffers with us - the philosophical answer
2 - Ask if they would allow us to pray together and invite God’s Spirit to give comfor and peace through their grieving process
3 - Don’t push them to reflect or agree with our answer, but instead simply be Christ’s hands and feet - helping them with any needs they may have and giving them space to grieve

I think that sincere prayer could keep the answer from seeming hollow - God’s Spirit can minister in ways that we cannot… Do you agree?

(Brandon Little) #16

@tsbehan if one could listen, show empathy, and then pose the question you asked: “Are there any other events that you would want God to intervene?” It would be a great way to engage the questioner and stir some thoughts. I love your suggestion of asking a question in response.