Summary: In order to understand God’s actions on 9/11 and in our personal tragedies, we must understand God’s character.
Sept. 22, 2002 John 11
“Where was God?”
I got a new cell phone this week – same phone #, just different phone. I never had a cell phone before I moved to West Virginia. I didn’t see the use in having one. But now that I have one, it’s great! When I’m on the road, I can call Tammy and let her know where I am and when I’ll be home. And since she has one now too, I can call her and find out where she is. Sometimes, when I call here, she’ll give me bad news. She’ll tell me that Ben did badly on a test or that Victoria got her feelings hurt or that her students were awful that day.
Phones are wonderful things, but they can communicate bad news sometimes. Like the call one fellow received from his wife just as she was about to fly home from Europe. “How’s my cat?” she asked. And quite abruptly, he answered, “The cat is dead.” “Oh, honey, don’t be so honest. Why didn’t you break the news to me slowly? You’ve ruined my trip.” “What do you mean?” “You could have told me he was on the roof. And when I called you from Paris, you could have told me he was acting sluggish. Then when I called from London, you could have said he was sick, and when I called you from New York, you could have said he was at the vet. Then, when I arrived home, you could have said he was dead.” The husband had never been exposed to such protocol but was willing to learn. “OK,” he said. “I’ll do better next time.” “By the way,” she asked, “how’s Mom?” There was a long silence, then he replied, “Uh, she’s on the roof.”
The phone company tells us that the busiest day of phone usage is normally Mother’s Day. But I have to believe that the phone traffic, particularly the cell phone traffic on Sept. 11, 2001 far exceeded all previously set records. Have you imagined yourself on the other end of one of those phone calls? Phone calls from the hijacked airplanes, phone calls from the Pentagon, phone calls from the World Trade Center. Everyone who was using their phones began their conversation with pretty much the same question. They asked, “Where are you?” Some callers received assurance that those on the other end of the line were safe and out of harm’s way. But for many, those calls were to say good-bye – to let their loved ones know that they were trapped on one of the upper floors of the WTC, and that they were not going to make it out alive. The biggest question of the day was, “Where are you?” (America Looks Up by Max Lucado, p. 67-68)
As often as that question was asked, and as important as it was, it was dwarfed in comparison to the question of the year: “Where was God?” People began to ask this question almost immediately following the events of that day, and they didn’t stop asking it all year long. Did God know about the attacks before they happened? And if he knew about the attacks, why did he allow them to happen? Why didn’t He stand as a giant shield between those planes and their targets? Or better still, why didn’t he cause their visa applications to be rejected? Where was God in all of this?
This question is nothing new. People have been asking it ever since suffering has been a part of human existence. The Bible records the lives and experiences of scores of people who had opportunity to question the presence of God with them while they were going through tough times. There’s righteous Abel, who was whacked on the head by his brother, Cain. Where was God in that? There’s innocent Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers and thrown into jail because of false accusations. There’s Lazarus who was one of Jesus’ best friends that died from a sickness that Jesus could have cured. And then there’s Jesus, God’s own Son, who cried from the cross, “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
Maybe you have gone through experiences that have caused you to voice this same question. Or even if you haven’t voiced the question, the events of last year or the tragedies of your own life have caused you to question the character or the activity of God. In response to this question, we’re going to look at some things which I believe will help us better comprehend and experience the presence of God at all times of our lives. We’re going to at least partially answer the question, “Where was God?”
In order to do that, we must first answer another question: “What is God like?” The better we understand God, the better we will be able to understand His actions. So, this morning, we’re going to talk about 7 characteristics or descriptions of God. As we do, consider this: God is here. There may have been other times in your life when you thought God was absent, and you got hurt. God is here right now, and He wants to say something to you. Let Him speak to your heart.