Where is God when it hurts?
C.S. Lewis wrestled with this question in his book A Grief Observed. Over the course of its pages, he processes the slow, agonizing loss of his wife to cancer. He talks about retreating into himself and losing his zest for life and his desire for human company. But the worst of it all was the experience of God’s absence at the very moment when he needed him the most. He writes:
“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.”
That is exactly what Job is saying in Job 23:
“Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!” (Job 23:3 ESV)
“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.” (Job 23:8–9 ESV)
I can’t see God, Job cries. But he sees me.
These horrifically honest verses lead directly into one of the most powerful statements of faith in all the Bible, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10 ESV). God sees me and God has a plan. It is a plan that is ultimately for my good and for his glory and therefore, I will trust him.
You have to know God the way Job did in order to trust him like that. When you can’t find God in your pain – you better know him enough to know that he sees you, he’s got you and he will never let you go.
That is the hardest test that life will ever throw at you.
May God grant you great mercy should he ordain for you to experience it.
Pastor Paul Carter