Summary: Where is God during times of trial
While we were in Houston the weekend before Annual Conference, Cindy, Christopher and I went with Cindy’s parents to see the new movie Pearl Harbor. I know that it is just a movie. I am quite certain that things on December 7, 1941 didn’t happen just like they happened in the movie. Movies are entertainment and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was very real.
Pearl Harbor is a long movie, three hours, with the first hour or perhaps even more showing events that proceeded the attack, Japan’s anger with the U.S. and possible warnings the government might have had. The last hour or so dealt with a retaliatory strike against Tokyo. Then there was the part in the middle, the actual attack on Pearl Harbor.
I don’t want you to think by my description that this movie is some boring war documentary that goes on for three hours. That is far from the case. The movie does tell the story but it does so in a format that is part action movie, part love story, and part drama all rolled into one. I just don’t want to mess up the whole story line for those who want to go see the movie.
In most any movie everyone has his or her favorite part. Pearl Harbor was no exception. To me it was rather obvious that the writers wanted our favorite part to be towards the end when the two heroes of the movie, played by Ben Afleck and Josh Harnett, are involved in the American retaliation with a bombing run over Tokyo. It was a moment when the good guys strike back.
While that part of the movie was good, it was not my favorite part. The part I liked best was not particularly entertaining, but it really spoke to me. Being a former Navy guy that spent several years aboard ship, the bombs landing on all of the ships with all of the loss of life and damage was very powerful. It hit close to home. Then, in the middle of all of this carnage is a priest, standing in waist deep water with dead bodies floating all around him. He was pronouncing last rites on the dead. Then this voice in the background says three words. If you weren’t paying attention it would be very easy to miss, "Where was God?" For me, it was one of the most powerful, heart wrenching movie scenes I have come across in a very long time.
It really is a very good question, however. Where was God during the attack on Pearl Harbor? For that matter, where was God when the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, or our embassies in Africa? Where was God when the stack of logs for the Texas A&M bonfire collapsed and killed so many students? Where was God this past week with all the floods across east Texas and Louisiana? Where is God whenever tragedy strikes our lives? Where is God whenever we have to deal with pain and devastation? Where is God?
This isn’t really a new question to me. I have heard it many times before. I heard it again and again in seminary in response to case studies we reviewed. I heard it in my internship and during real life situations I face in the course of doing ministry. I have heard it, though perhaps not in those exact words, in many visits in homes, hospitals, and nursing homes.
As I watched Pearl Harbor and heard the question again a bit of a chill ran down me. It is not an unfamiliar feeling. I have felt it many times before. I feel it just about any time I hear the question, "Where is/was God?"
I think that there is really another question that is at the root of this question. As I have observed it there are two possibilities, though there may be others as well. For many the real question is, why has God abandoned me at the very moment when I need Him most. It seems to me that the anonymous poet of "Footprints in the Sand" had that right saying in essence, I didn’t abandon you, it was then that I was carrying you.
The second root question I have observed is, if God is alive and real, and God really loves and cares for His children, how can He possibly let this happen?
Did you catch the end of that question? "How could God possibly let this happen?" The statement is an indictment that perhaps there is no God at all, and even if there is, God doesn’t care about us. God doesn’t care about the people of this world.
Nothing could be further from the truth. But, it seems to me that this is just what the world around us would like to have us believe. Where was God? God wasn’t there. God doesn’t care. We point our fingers at God. We blame God for all that is wrong around us. Then we forget, God gives us the ability to make decisions and choose our path in life.