Where is God when I hurt? Or the silence of God!
- Part 2
by Gini Crawford, MSW
4/2008 revised 6/2019
When you are suffering do you find yourself asking, "Where is God, when I am hurting so much? He seems so distant." When suffering happens to us (or others), we can have some soul searching questions about where God is, can't we? In part 1 "Why does God allow us to suffer?" and now in part 2, I am giving you some Biblical insights that should help you make some sense out of suffering. In this devotion, I am going to share what the Holy Spirit has shown me concerning where God is when we hurt or why He seems to be silent when we seemingly need Him the most.
Our emotions and thoughts can be overwhelmed when we hurt
When you think and feel things like, "I am hurting so much but I don't feel God's presence." It is hard for me to think of God much less pray to Him in my hurt. I feel He has deserted me because He doesn't seem to answer my cry for help." You need to understand (if you don't already know) that from a psychological and physical standpoint, when you hurt your mind doesn't think very clearly, because your mind is mentally trying to handle the pain. Your emotions are screaming pain and hurt so it isn't easy to feel anything but what you are experiencing. When you are suffering, anxiety and depression can also weigh on your feelings and outlook on life. So when you feel like God isn't there when you are suffering, you need to realize no matter how you feel He is with you (Psalm 23; 139:1-12).
What Jesus did and does for us
It is very important you have a solid understanding of what Jesus Christ did and does for you. This will enable you to know (even if you don't feel it) God was, and is with you (in the most intimate way), as you suffer. Also through this knowledge, you will understand better - the why and for what purpose God allows suffering. In the rest of this devotion I hope to give you this knowledge about Jesus.
The ultimate sacrifice of God - Romans 8 makes it clear, God sacrificed His Son, so He could be with us through all of life. On the other hand, Jesus (Who is God) willingly allowed Himself to be sacrificed for us. If I gave up my son's life for someone, wouldn't that show you I wanted to be with that person more than anyone else? If I gave up my life for someone, wouldn't that tell you how much I loved and cared for that person?
But God has shown us how much he loves us---it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! Romans 5:8 GNT
Why did Jesus Christ need to die for us so we could be with Him? You see, before we are Christians, we are eternally dead to God (or separated from Him) because of our state of spiritual death from our sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty for those sins. What do we need to do? We need to have faith Jesus died on the cross for our sins. That belief in Jesus makes us go from the state of eternal death to eternal life with Him (Ephesians 2:4-9). The most well-known Bible verse, John 3:16, tells us this principle.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (or live forever with God). NIV
When we have believed in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit (God Himself) comes to live within us. I think we would all agree, God couldn't be with us any more intimately than living within us. (Ephesians 1:7-14). So as you and I suffer He is literally suffering with us. Comforting reality, isn't it?
The Bible can seem contradictory to us concerning suffering and Who God says He is, unless we realize what Jesus has suffered for us. Jesus Christ took the suffering we deserved (in Hell) when He died on the cross for us. Jesus as God also could have stopped any of His suffering immediately, but He patiently endured His suffering for us. He also has never asked us to go through anything He hasn't. (Hebrews 2:9-10, 17-18, 4:14-16). Where would we be if Jesus hadn't suffered for us?
Jesus was forsaken for us
How do you feel when you are suffering and people desert you, even people who should love you? From His night before the crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane on through His death the next day, almost all Jesus' friends and family deserted Him (Mark 14-15). God the Father even abandoned Him, when the punishment for all the sins ever committed fell upon Jesus as He was dying on the cross. Since God is holy and can have nothing to do with sin, He separated Himself from His Son in those hours. When darkness fell upon the earth, it seemed God was silent to His Son's cry...
At noon the whole country was covered with darkness, which lasted for three hours. At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why did you abandon (or forsake) me?" ...With a loud cry Jesus died. Mark 15:33-34, 37 GNT
Remember when God seems silent or not there in your suffering, He hasn’t forsaken you. Jesus was forsaken by God on the cross, so you would never be forsaken by God.
Jesus suffered everything on this earth, so He could symphathize with us
I think we all forget (at least at times) that the God of the universe through Jesus experienced all the hurt and pain we have had. This isn't just because He is God, and is all-knowing and always present. It is because He physically and psychologically went through the experiences of this life. On this earth He was fully human as well as fully God.
Can you imagine how it must have been for the God of the universe to allow Himself to become one of us? As the One True God, He could have lived a life fit for a king on this earth - He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. And then died for us.
However, Jesus wanted to truly be able to sympathize with us in our trials, so He chose a life that allowed, even promoted, great suffering: He knows the hunger and the frustrations of poverty, because He chose to be born into a poor family. He understands how it feels to be ugly and ignored, because He chose a human body that was unattractive. He personally knows how hurtful it is to live in a world of death, because early on He experienced the death of His human father. He also lived with the agony of death all around Him like we do. He understands how it hurts to be hated just because people don't understand you or are jealous of you. He understands how it is to be extremely weary and not be able to sleep, to be sick and have no place to stay, to be cold and hot, thirsty and hungry and so on. He knows how hard it is to be insulted, even spit upon, by the people who should be respecting you. He has experienced the pain of rejection that leads people to even torture you. He comprehends how it feels to be completely innocent, yet crucified for the guilty ones, who wanted His death. He knows the agony of being beaten and whipped beyond human endurance. He has experienced the pain and humiliation of being stark naked and nailed to a cross, in front of the very people who thought He deserved this. He has had every bone and muscle in His body screaming for relief from pain but never getting it. He knows how it feels to suffer and die for the people you love but who could care less about you. (Isaiah 53:1-12; Matthew 8:20, 20:28, 26:1-2, 47-75, 27:11-54; Mark 4:35-41).
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted ... For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 2:17-18 & 4:15-16 NASB®
The word sympathize in Hebrews 4:15 is formed from two Greek words, which mean "together with and to suffer" We could say sympathize here means - because Jesus has experienced all the suffering we have, He does suffer along with us. So when you are suffering remember, whether you feel like He is with you or not, He is. And that He understands.
If the meaning of sympathize didn't comfort you enough, did you know right now, Jesus is in eternity interceding for you?
Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 NASB® see also Romans 8:27 & 34
The word intercession means what you think it would - pray for, intervene, support, talk to, decide for, ask on behalf of and act as go-between for. Jesus is praying for and supporting you constantly as you suffer, as well as when you simply live life. He is also deciding if the suffering (or anything) you will go through is what you need for your absolute best, for the present as well as for your future here and in eternity. His decisions are being made from an eternal perspective and are made by knowing what everything you experience will do to you. (Romans 8:18, 26-39; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
When we have suffered something similar to someone then we can actually feel and comprehend their pain and hurt. Can't we? Jesus has experienced what we have suffered, so this allows Him to truly comfort us as we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1 encourages us by saying, His comfort is abundant for us as we suffer. This is because He has suffered for us.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:3-5 NASB®
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25 NASB®
Does it give you encouragement to think Jesus suffered for you, and is always suffering with you, wanting to comfort you? It does me. Call to Him, He is right there.
There are 3 ways Jesus suffered for us that we will never experience
First, since Jesus is God, He is perfectly holy. This means He is completely separated from sin and evil; He is absolutely pure, and hates sin with His whole Being. Jesus is all-knowing, so He knew the physical, psychological and spiritual agony beforehand - of literally taking our sins upon His Holy Being. Yet, He fought His human nature and died in our place (Mark 14:32-42). The Holy One became sin for us, so our sufferings on this earth will have a beautiful result in heaven (Mark 1:24; Acts 3:14; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, 5:19, 21).
Second, Jesus and God the Father are one (John 14:8-11). So what was the severity of the suffering, when God the Father separated Himself from God the Son those three dark hours, when He became our sin offering? I have wondered if it felt like His whole triune Being was being ripped apart. (Isaiah 53:10-13; Psalm 22:1-2 also Matthew 15:45-46).
Third, how much suffering and torture did Jesus go through when He took the consequence of every sin ever committed upon Himself? This would mean that all suffering and pain through out the ages fell on Him - the punishment for all violent and immoral acts was upon Him - all sinful thoughts, words, deeds and so on fell upon Him. God’s wrath also was upon Jesus as He was taking our punishment for our sins as He hung on that cross. I think we could safely say, Jesus suffered beyond our human comprehension on the cross - just because He loves us, and wants us to be with Him. (1 John 2:2, 3:5, 4:9-10, 5:11-13, 20).
Jesus' suffering gives us an eternity without suffering
I think you would all agree, death brings a lot of the suffering on this earth. A dear cousin of mine, who was like a sister to me while growing up, just died from cancer at 51. Yes, I am in mourning over the hurt of her death, and have moments when I ask God why? Yet, I know Karen is in Jesus' presence. And she is feeling the joy and peace I long for, but it escapes me for now, because I am chained to this fallen earth. God isn't mourning like I am, but is feeling like we would when a beloved child who we have been waiting years for, comes home. He does understand my grief and pain over death because He has experienced it spiritually as well as physically Himself (John 11).
When death hits and it does quite a lot in our world, you and I need to remember - God very much did something about death. He stepped out of eternity and defeated our frightful enemy death by His death. He suffered for us by living and dying on this earth. Because of this, death will never be our enemy or our punishment. Death has become something glorious to Christians. This is because it is the means by which we escape suffering and go home to be with Him. (1 Corinthians 15).
A neat reality from the knowledge that Jesus died so we could live with Him in heaven, comes from John 14:1-3. In these verses, Jesus is talking about preparing a special place for each of us, so we can be where He is, in eternity.
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:1-3 NASB®.
Have you ever thought that Jesus is now preparing a dwelling for you in heaven, so you can live with Him? Does this show you how much He wants to be with you? Remember it was His suffering that gives you a home in heaven instead of eternal agony in hell.
Life Application: I need to warn you, if you leave God out of your suffering, there is no guarantee the suffering will do the good it could do. And when you leave God out, you leave out the One Who loves you, Who suffered for you, Who has the only words and actions that bring eternal life and everlasting hope and peace, and Who has the only power to enable you to endure for an eternal benefit. Seek Him. He wants to help you through anything. Read Psalm 91 & 124; Matthew 7:7-11.
In James 1:2-4 we are encouraged to rejoice over trials because they bring about maturity in our life. In other words, if we allow God, He uses suffering in our lives to mold us into a beautiful godly woman that has Jesus' character and is outfitted for life in heaven (Revelation 19:7-8). Read Isaiah 53; Romans 8:15-39; Ephesians 4:20-5:2.
When you are suffering you need to ask God if your sin is causing you to suffer, such as a drug addiction or being mean. Even if it isn't your own sin that is bringing suffering into your life, you need to still ask the Holy Spirit to search your mind and heart for sin. This is because when anything that is hard hits us, it seems to be awfully easy to start sinning (such as being unforgiving or gossipy). (Psalm 139:23-24; 1 John 1:8-9).
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