Where is God? I Don’t Know.

“Where is God in all of this?”

I was once asked that when I was a chaplain in an emergency room. My answer – I don’t know.

Do you personally know where God is in all the pain, the suffering, the killing, the war, in domestic abuse, in politics, in our lives? If you think you do, you probably don’t really know. For, if there is one thing that most theologians recognized is that the more you think you know about God, the more you realize how very little you know.

This question recently came to me from a congregant of mine. He parsed it as a question from a friend. As with most of these kinds of questions, I think the congregant found that friend’s question resonating with him so much so that he decided he needed to ask me. I fear that I failed in my response. Again, I said that I did not know.

This may seem an odd response from a minister – after all, am I not a representative of the divine? Yes, and no…Yes, I am trained in matters of the spirit, in theologies, in church administration, in public speaking/preaching. I know how to listen pretty well…and the best listening I do is to hear the divine within each of us. And, the ‘no’ comes from the fact that each of us is a representative of the divine. We are all equals before the Holy.

In some ways, my response to the question of where is God, should be – Here, in you, in me. But, that is not the response people are seeking. The question really is, not where is God, but why. Why is the Mystery; why is the Divine allowing this to happen? Does God want it this way?

Inevitably, one wishes to assign responsibility for what is happening in our human world to God. After all, when things go right, we can say with glee – see, God is on our side. But, that misses a broader perspective…God loves everyone equally; I personally do not believe that God takes sides.

Ultimately, what happens here on earth, in this altogether too flawed human community, is the responsibility, the fault, of us humans.

What is your image of God? That image, your metaphor for that beyond our understanding, guides you in the answer to the question: Where is God in all of this? If you believe that God controls everything like a jealous ruler, that God has the limited qualities of humankind, then perhaps you might hold God responsible. As for me, I do not know. I am incapable of articulating my image of God – that image is limited by my human perspective. I know what I feel about the Mystery, I know that God is love, first and foremost, love. I know that we have been granted free will and within that free will we do both good and ill. If God were a father figure looking down on me, I have a sense that he would be saddened by what we have done with our innate abilities and our innate worth. But God is not responsible for what we humans do…He / She does not take sides.

So, when we speak of the war – any war – it is to humans we must look for the answer of who is responsible and how we can achieve peace. God may give us the will, but we humans are the ones responsible.