Chapter OneWHERE IS GOD WHEN
Watch the portion of the movie Patch Adams where he was contemplating
God's presence in an evil world. What was Patch
Patch Adams' experience of calling out to God in difficult
times is common to all humanity. What are some specific
examples of experiences that could cause people to cry
out to God today?
If you've ever called out to God in a time of distress, did he seem
close or far away, and why?
How did that particular situation make you feel?
How close is God in times of stress? Where was God when the
World Trade Center was burning in New York? When the Federal
building was bombed in Oklahoma City? When millions of Jews
were exterminated in concentration camps? Where is God when
loved ones get sick or die in wars? Does he care about individuals?
Can he handle the honest, pain-filled questions of those who are
These are the deeply human questions we ask of God in times
of loss. But what are the answers? We can learn much about this
subject from those in the past who have experienced similar loss.
Transport back in time about three thousand years to the life of a
writer named Asaph. We have no idea who Asaph was or what was
happening in his life, only that he was a director of music when
David was king. And yet the following song he wrote is powerful
and speaks to our times as well.
Read Psalm 77:1-9
I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired: "Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
1. What adjectives would you use to characterize the tone of this
song, or psalm?
2. What's remarkable about the way Asaph approaches God?
3. In order for people to be able to approach God in this
way, what must God be like?
4. Why do you think God included this song by an unknown
person in his book, the Bible?
Consider the following story from the life of Jesus, who claimed
to be God in a human body.
Read John 11:17-44
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the
tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the
loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she
went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother
would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you
whatever you ask."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at
the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who
believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and
believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the
Son of God, who was to come into the world."
And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister
Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you."
When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus
had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha
had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed
her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she
fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would
not have died."
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along
with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
"Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them
said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept
this man from dying?"
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave
with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time
there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would
see the glory of God?"
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always
hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that
they may believe that you sent me."
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with
strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
5. Skim the story for any clues about Jesus' relationship with
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. How might you characterize this
6. Notice the shortest sentence in this story (incidentally, also the
shortest verse in the Bible): "Jesus wept." We find out early in
the story that Jesus knew he'd raise Lazarus from the dead. So
why do you think he wept?
Jesus thinks of his followers as his spiritual family. Given what
you've seen of him in this story, how do you think he responds
when his family comes to him full of pain and questions?
From looking at Asaph's song and the story of Lazarus,
how would you respond to the question, "Where is God
when tragedy (or a specific tragedy) strikes?"
If you could talk to God face-to-face about pain, suffering,
war, or justice, what questions would you ask?