By Ian Hodge
Where has God been this year? What should we think of God in the aftermath of the hurricanes that struck Texas and Puerto Rico so hard to the mass shootings of Las Vegas and in a little country church in Sutherland Springs, Texas? These events force us to ask if God is blind, indifferent, impotent, or dead.
These are fair questions. And they are questions that perhaps we shouldn’t be quick to jump to conclusions on. The temptation is to conclude that because we can’t see God in a certain situation that He must not be there after all, or at least He must not be anyone we’d want to know (which is quite a strange thing to say about God, love him or hate him). Or perhaps the temptation is to never peer too deeply into our pain and grief, but rather to simply parrot clichés like, “God never closes a door without opening a window” to try to pretend our grief and anger don’t exist.
So how do we live with God in the midst of all this? I suggest that the best way to find out where God is starts with prayer, and that prayer must begin with honesty. That’s the example we have in the Bible, after all. Psalm 13 gives us a model of prayer: complaint, request, faith. The complaint is, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?” There’s no covering up of frustration or anger. It doesn’t start with a laundry list of requests. There is a brutal honesty here, a banging on the door, if you will, that we see God is willing to listen to because it’s included in His holy scripture. Then, the request, “Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,” (among other requests). Finally, the Psalmist closes with a statement of faith, “But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.” This pattern of prayer repeats throughout the Psalms.
A prayer over the church shooting in Texas might look like, “God, where are you in the midst of this violence? You won’t stand by and do nothing, will you? Stand up, and show us that you are God! Comfort the hurting. Heal the broken hearted. Show mercy to the needy. Bring an end to senseless violence. Let everyone see who you are, and that you do care. Because I believe that you are a God who rescues.
What you’re beginning to do here is, by prayer, to pull heaven and earth together. In prayer, we can give voice to the cries of our world, and bring that voice right into heaven’s throne room. So cry out in the voice of the grieving mother, of the orphaned child, of the horrified bystander. This is the prayer that authentically seeks explanation rather than carelessly condemns. This is the type of prayer that really relies on faith and not tired clichés. And of course, while prayer really calls into action the resources of heaven, you shouldn’t be surprised if you also are called into action to mediate those resources into our world.
Ian Hodge is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Lemon Cove. He may be reached by calling 559-597-2249.
Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.