Where is God?

I process the thoughts in my head through writing, it is how I work out where I am at and when I write it is sort of like unblocking a drain and watching the water wash away. Usually I write very quickly, in a rush of thought as I empty my brain, but on the subject of Gods location in the midst of struggle that doesn’t seem to work, I find myself struggling to verbalise the swirl of thoughts in my head.

I mention this because in my last blog I asked the question – where is God in the continual battle and never changing story? And I want to respond to this question – not in a ‘TA DA! I know it ALL!’ sort of way, more in a ‘here is my thinking’ sort of way. So here goes, this is where I think God is in the midst of the struggle of getting by day by day.

It is very easy when talking to someone who is struggling to get by to offer a trite and simple answer, but this more often than not – unless coming out of sincere relationship and understanding of the situation of the one you are talking to – makes the recipient angry! The bible however, is where I find an answer that is neither simple nor irritating, but real. Throughout the bible we meet character after character who lived lives that were hard. Some were hard because of poverty, some due to illness, some due to persecution, some due to God’s call on their lives. The reality is though, that finding someone in the bible who lived free of suffering is not possible.

This continues in the new testament – which is full of references to caring for the widow, the orphan and the slave. The happy news the gospel brings does not mean that accepting it into our lives means we will live happy, easy lives. The ‘happy gospel’ myth does a disservice to the apostles, the early church and to Jesus as it fails to acknowledge the words written that point to suffering as part of the world we live in.

The gospel I read is one about sacrifice and hope – the God who came down to earth in a sacrifice the likes of which I will never comprehend. He spent his life facing struggle after struggle, and came to a point where he asked God to take away the pain of it. He then handed it over to God and surrendered himself to His will. This story is the greatest comfort for me. It tells me that when I sit in tears, begging God to end the pain and he seemingly doesn’t answer, Jesus gets how I feel. It also tells me that Jesus, in his lifetime, surrendered to God, accepting that sometimes our most desperate pleas don’t get answered in the way we would like. There is no answer to the mystery of why some people get healed and others don’t, or why some people get children and others don’t, or some get married and others don’t or any of the other questions in life – but there is an understanding that Jesus knows what it is like to feel like God has forgotten us, and this assures us that even when it feels like it we know he has not.

The bible is my comfort, because throughout it offers hope in the middle of darkness. Psalm 139:12  says ‘even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you’ – this is a promise to me that says when God seems distant, when I cannot seem him, I am assured he sees me.

The thing is, when I read the bible I know that God heals, I know he could heal me, I know that if he doesn’t I have not failed him, I know that if life is a battle every day until the day I die God will be fighting the battle with me – for me even. The bible gives me hope in who I am, in who I could be, in who God is and how precious I am to him.

However, I find that that confidence fails when I hear testimony after testimony which is concluded with a happy, pretty bow. When I am asked, for the gazilionth time, whether I have asked God for healing, or am told a story of a healing that happened to someone just like me.

What I want to hear is how people live IN the fight. How do people keep up their hope, when things are not changing? I want to hear the testimonies of what God does when all hope is lost. My experience tells me that it is in the darkest moments that God does the biggest things, and whilst I might not have been physically healed, He has drawn me deeper into his love and grace. Showing me the lengths of his love for me and offering me comfort when all is black.

These are testimonies that both deserve to be heard and are equally valuable to the church. We need to learn how to walk alongside each other in the midst of heartbreak and suffering. To do this, we need to learn from the extraordinary depths of faith and hope that those whose situations are unchanging can find. We need to learn from the bible that God does extraordinary things in desperate situations – but this doesn’t mean that we will no longer suffer. We need to stop guilt tripping and answering complex questions with an absurd simplicity.

Where is God? He is here. With me. Enjoying my moments of hope and holding me in the moments of brokenness. He is the promise of a future, he is light in the dark, he is everything.

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11 Comments

  • Hi Katharine,

    Lots of things from my own experience spring to mind when reading this post.

    I remember once when I was a regular church-goer, I used to go to a house group every week. One week I was having a hard time due to mental health problems and became quite emotional in the meeting, and everyone in the group laid hands on me and prayed for healing while I sobbed my eyes out. The group prayed for total healing for me in Jesus’ name, from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. It was quite an experience and gave me great hope.

    But a few weeks later I had an episode of illness and was in hospital again, suffering from some of the worst depression I have ever experienced. Where was the healing in Jesus’ name? I don’t know the answer to that question. But while I was in hospital, feeling suicidal, I walked into a room with one of my fellow patients and told her how distressed I was feeling. She told me ‘there is always light around’. I clung to those words and that gave me some hope which helped me through.

    I think it’s true – ‘there is always light around’. I believe God is in control, and chooses for us to experience suffering for His own reasons (I suggest what some of those reasons might be on my blog and in my books).

    I’m not a Christian these days but I know there is a God who hears every prayer, and who seems to be ultimately merciful despite the tragic suffering some people go through on Earth. I love God, even though I wish that people wouldn’t have to suffer so much.

    Peace and blessings to you,

    Steven

  • Hi Katharine,
    I was trying to send you an individual message but I’m not quite sure how to do it! Firstly, I just want to thank you so much for your blog posts. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to be open and vulnerable about how things are with you. In the last year or so since I’ve been diagnosed with depression, it has been so encouraging to read your posts addressing some of the issues I have been facing but am sometimes too scared/embarrassed to articulate.
    Back to this post: I completely understand what you’re saying about how in our darkest moments God does some amazing things. Recently I was in A&E (at 3 o’clock in the morning) after an episode of DSH, and my friend sat with me and just kept saying how much God loved me. It was then, in the middle of a barren desert that seemed never-ending, that I realised afresh the ridiculousness of the Gospel – how amazing it is that Jesus came and died for us, knowing us completely but still wanting to save us! And we don’t need to do anything to receive this grace, just believe in Jesus.
    I’m still in the battle. I’m not magically better. I probably doubt more days than I believe. But even in those darkest moments I can still cling on to the truth of the gospel, however unattainable it may seem at the time. Even more, I know that God is holding on to me.

  • You show great (spiritual) maturity in your words. I recently read Sheila Walsh’s book ‘Loved Back to Life’ which comes from a place you relate to and was insightful to me as I walk with and try to support people who suffer as you do. If you haven’t read it, I would recommend it as Sheila explores how people said things that were incredibly unhelpful when she checked herself in to a clinic to recuperate from a breakdown. She has found God’s love and healing of hurts caused by those who maybe should have known better, but didn’t. I’m not saying this in judgement in any way – far from it – only from the point of having someone else putting into written word, something similar to what you’re saying here. Thank you once again for the insight into what it’s like to fight depression from the inside and may God’s light continue to provide comfort to you each day.

  • Dear Katharine,

    Wow ! Two posts in two days you busy bee.

    I loved Pinky Cow’s comment that ” you are a crap vessel ” … but chosen … and then her beautiful ” but what I have I give to you “.

    The charity I chair is called Being Alongside.

    Roger Royle has just written an article for our next newsletter and quotes from the big book,
    ” But a Samaritan as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him he had compassion.” Came to where he was. This is exactly what Being Alongside is all about.
    And having come alongside he was able to have compassion, i.e. he was able to suffer with the person.
    Of course this story has an extra twist. The Samaritan was a foreigner, someone to be despised or looked down upon. The people who would have been expected to come alongside passed by on the other side but not the foreigner.”

    If you call us on 02033 972 497, listen to the options then press button 3 – my mobile rings.

    The road is indeed long and winding, rocky and peril-strewn but as Bill Jones (90) says :

    Trust In the Lord.
    The way will be
    shown to you.
    Like music of the spheres
    all aglow.
    The right road will be
    in front of you.

    Jamie Summers

  • Aaaargh Katharine you absolute beauty. This brought tears to my eyes and also a song to my heart. Such hard-won wisdom in here… ‘We need to learn from the bible that God does extraordinary things in desperate situations – but this doesn’t mean that we will no longer suffer. We need to stop guilt tripping and answering complex questions with an absurd simplicity.’ Cheering you on all the way and so much respect for you – neat tidy bows never changed the world, but as you wrestle with God in the darkness you already are! Reminded me of the lion painting in your living room as I read this. God for us, no matter what. Wow. Thank you for sharing this post and yesterday’s so honestly xxxx

  • Dearest Katharine,

    I cannot keep writing and rewriting this reply out over and over again, the more I write the more lost I get; like being in a maze, if I place trust my instincts I’ll find my way out, if I try too hard or feel the panic surfacing, I won’t stand a chance. Ive been meticulously planing every word under the intense scrutiny of my own self, trying so hard to convey accurately what it is I want to say. I should have stayed with the first draft, and posted it while the going was good. I hope what follows makes sense.
    The fact is Katharine, the truth often is simple, that’s why I’ve struggled with this reply, I’ve found myself in a downward spiral, digging ever deeper, pursuing thoughts that on any given Sunday seldom cause a threat, but now I’m finding all manor of things long since buried. To me it is simple, so simple that it has left the greatest minds lost and confused, in the belief that the truth must be far more complex than what it is, that it couldn’t possibly be this easy. After all Jesus was a carpenter, not a Scribe, Pharisee, physician or mathematician, was He not.
    The world has fed us subtle lies all our lives, the lie that this is all there is, that this is what’s important, it’s done in order to keep us drowning in this mystery. Whether we fully believe the lie and are atheists, or we listen enough to cast doubt, leaving us inoperable and ineffective in the battle. The enemy we face is well aware that it’s far better to wound us, that way it can be sure of immobilising others as we try our best to save our brother or sister. While the enemy sits in the bell tower, picking us off one by one like a prize sniper.
    I’ve been almost 40 years with this illness, and not once have I given it a second thought that a cure was to be; at least not in this world. That does not leave me desolate and destitute, hopeless or unable to give hope, loveless or incapable of giving love, no, if anything it’s quite the opposite.
    Our lakes are deeper and wider, sweeter and cooler, achieved by all we’ve gone through, given to us with grace, love and mercy, every time we’ve gritted our teeth and cried out to God. When I know I don’t have any more, the Holy Spirit provides me with more. You must hold fast in the truth that the spring waters that supply the lakes of our resources never run dry, we just have to remain taped into its source through a direct relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Many think they have an answer obtained through a poorly researched and often misguided ill educated diagnosis, followed by a fix, a miracle, medication or healing. I’ve seen people destroyed by the promise of a miracle that never comes, I’ve seen others disappear in a shadow of their former self, drowned in medication, until barley recognisable even to themselves.
    Likewise Don’t listen to those who promise healing, especially those who claim it through the laying on of hands, or through the babbling of tongues, or if you will only purchase a twenty dollar handkerchief. Give no time to those who try and tell you it’s something you’ve done, that is by far the cruelest of all lies.
    For this I’m certain of, if I work my fingers to the bone from now until my last breath, I won’t obtain a greater reward than I’m all ready promised. Just as I could sit and do nothing for the rest of my life, and I won’t receive any greater blessing of that which I am promised. I love the Lord Jesus Christ with all of my heart and mind, I seek each day to be as filled as much as I possibly can with the Holy Spirit. I am saved by God through Jesus Christ.
    As for this body, it’s not worth a carrot. I read somewhere that “We are not earthly beings on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings on an earthly journey”. I like that a lot, it fills me with all good things, knowing that we have always belonged to God, that He’s just let us go for a short time. I guess that’s why the heavens rejoice when we return, just as the father of the prodigal son.

    Love and peace as always to you and Mike
    Gary

  • Thank you for this post.

    One of the readers on my blog Chronicles of a Kid Next Door recommended I should read your post. I had been struggling with depression and began writing about it. I am glad I came across your article. When we doubt, struggle or suffer, God is always by our side. Thank you for the reminder.

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  • ‘God’ is not an external being.

    It is not a ‘He’.

    It didn’t ‘come down to earth’ in a mysterious way.

    ‘God’ is your true nature.

    There is nothing external.

    It is not ‘God’.

    The divine is the self.

    It is the very existence of your entire being.

    It comes from within.

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