“Where’s your god now?”

“Come to Jesus and all your problems will be solved immediately!”

There are some preachers and evangelists who give exactly that message. If you give your life to Jesus, health and wealth will quickly follow. You’ll face no more hardship and everything will go well with your life. There are some. But not many. Very few people deliberately and consciously promote this as the Christian message.

A strange question

But there’s a question I hear reasonably often, and it’s this: “Where’s your god now?” The sentiment is summed up hilarious in the following picture:

where's god

Clearly this is just a joke (though jokes tend to contain a grain of truth), but people ask the same thing seriously. I was with a non-Christian recently who shared the sad news that a Christian she knows has been diagnosed with cancer. She then pointedly said, “He’s a godly man, so where’s his God now?”

Behind statements like these, there seems to be an assumption that if a Christian has given their lives to God then He’ll sort everything out for them, fix all their problems, keep them safe, protect them from all harm. Why is it people believe that’s what Christianity is about, when it simply isn’t?

I’ve also heard and read the same question coming from Christians when things are hard. “Why is this happening to me? Where’s God gone?” I have deep sympathy for people who ask that (I have), but it is—I think—based on a wrong view of God.

A simple answer

The truth is God never promises to fix everything in our lives. There will be a time when all pain and difficulty will be put right and everything will be restored. But until that day comes, we live in a broken world. Does God heal? Yes. Does God intervene for His people? Yes. Does God answer prayer? Yes. He does these things, but He doesn’t always and He has never promised to.

wheres god crossSo where is God when His people suffer?

God is right there with them, standing alongside them.
God is on the cross, suffering for them, knowing their pain and Himself feeling a divine absence.
God is in them by His Spirit, giving strength and hope and peace—even joy.

The answer to the question “Where is God now?” is never “He’s gone away, absent.” The answer is always that He is right there, at the moment of deepest pain. I often don’t feel that, but I know it is true. Even though I don’t fully understand it. I believe it because God has said promised it and God can’t lie.

So why the question?

If the basis of the question is a wrong view of God, a view that very few people actually promote, why is it the question gets asked at all? Where has this wrong idea come from?

I honestly don’t know. I have a few ideas, but I don’t know. It could be that deep down we do believe God is better when things are going well and that He’s worse when they aren’t. At times do we believe we’ve entered into a transaction with God where we’ll be devoted as long as He looks after us? It could be we don’t believe that, but we far more readily say ‘God is so good!’ when something has gone well for us than when it hasn’t. It could be that in popular culture God is depicted in exactly that way, someone who will sort things out for you if you’re faithful to Him. Maybe the world can’t imagine why you’d want to follow any other sort of God—what’s in it for you?

I honestly don’t know. If you think you do, I’d love to hear.

But I’ll end with this. If the world has this opinion that people follow Jesus mostly because they think He’ll protect them—if that’s what people really believe—then it presents us with an amazing opportunity to put them straight.

I follow Jesus for far more exciting reasons than that.

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  • Graham Criddle

    Great post, David

    I have had similar questions asked of me – “Why did God let…?” and “Why didn’t God…?” and there is so much behind these questions about an understand of God and how he engages with the world. Some of these preconceptions may be accurate and some may not – and often the occasion of the question is absolutely the wrong time to try and explore them.

    And you’re right. Even though God isn’t absent it can feel like it which can raise many questions of doubt – even for those of faith.

    Where do the questions come from, where do the wrong ideas come from? I am sure there are many contributory factors – a relegation of God to a place of our making where we expect him to do what we want him to do and are angry when he doesn’t, a confusion in what people are taught regarding God and faith, a putting together of ideas about what we would like God to be as opposed to who he says he is. How much of this stems from people seeking to make God in their own image as opposed to realising that we are made in his?

    In his book Imagine Church, Neil Hudson talks about the “church contract” and suggests that most churches in the UK have been build around an unwritten pastoral care contract which involves:
    1) The church leader having a clear vision about the future of the church
    2) The people support, invest in and help deliver the vision
    3) In return, the people will be cared for.
    Neil is arguing that this contract needs to be changed to focus on growth in discipleship (while not neglecting pastoral care) and I wonder if the same unwritten contract affects how we think about our relationship with God?

    And your post triggered me to write a review on a book I have just finished reading which engages with – but doesn’t try to give slick answers for – some of the questions you are asking. It’s at http://whenkingdomsmeet.org/theology/disappointment-god/