I’m asking myself a question at the moment, in these ‘unprecedented times’. It’s the same question every day, and every day, it has a new answer. The question is this: Where did I discover something of God today?
It’s an ancient question, inspired by Ignatius, who encourages us to ‘Find God in All Things’ as the Jesuits put it.
And so, I go about my business. Pondering. Praying. Posting on Facebook. Participating in Zoom calls and MS Teams meetings. Peeling potatoes. Picking passages for Bible studies. Pretending the garden does not need weeding. (Who, me?) And as I do, at the back of my mind, the question lingers: Where is God at work here? What am I discovering about God in the small events of what has now become, almost, cloistered life? Where is God in this world which on the surface can seem so limited?
Today, I was praying with a group of people from the Baptist College in Cardiff – online of course! A particular situation made me well up because of some very sad circumstances. For a moment, I felt vulnerable there, caught on live camera with my emotions visible at the corner of my eye, in a quivering lip and an unexpected flutter in my chest.
It was then that I remembered the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept”, found in John’s gospel chapter 11 and verse 35.
I’m sure one or two of us will be asking the same question in our current situation as Martha and Mary asked when, after delaying for several days, Jesus arrived and Lazarus, their brother and Jesus’ dear friend, was already in the grave, stone dead. “Why?”, they asked. It was expressed as a statement: “If you had been here, this would not have happened!”, but it was a question all the same; “Why did you let this happen? God, why!?”
I am sure Jesus would have been able to answer that question in a way that would fully satisfy us, but He didn’t – and He doesn’t. If He had kept to the facts however startling, complex and overwhelmingly mind-boggling; and given that explanation, we would have somehow known less of Him, not more.
What makes me say such a thing? That if Jesus had explained, we would have known less, not more?
I say that because we don’t understand God with our minds only. We understand Him in relationship. We understand Him with our hearts too.
God reveals Himself very clearly when Jesus’ response is not a theological and detached lecture on the details of God’s sovereignty or goodness or plan (however wonderful such things can be in their season) but rather a deeply relational, invested, committed, real response: “He was moved. He was greatly troubled. He wept.”
First and foremost, God cares. Jesus came to show us who God is. And God is moved by our pain. God loves us most when we feel the least loved or lovable. God is always the first to cry when beautiful things are shattered, when anguish and anxiety takes away our peace and the brokenness of this world makes us feel distant from God and from each other. Believe me, God is the first to cry.
Jesus calls Lazarus back to life. God acts. God is not stopped by anything. What looks like a barrier to us is not. Not to the one who is the resurrection and the life. Whatever side of that thin veil we are on, nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Ever.
Today, in my moment of vulnerability, another little aspect of what it means to be created in God’s image became the answer to Today’s Question, as compassion left me with no clever words and fine explanations, fighting back tears.
Tomorrow will have its own questions. But there’s one question I will continue to focus on: “Where is God in this situation?” Because I know He is there. He has promised never to leave us, even when His heart breaks. Especially when His heart breaks. Because He cares. He’s committed to us. He is God-with-us and He is closest of all to the brokenhearted.