December 10, 2009
Where was God?
"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'"
Acts 7:55-56 (NIV)
Sometimes things happen in life that are so horrible our minds have a hard time processing them. Even our souls don't know quite where to place the horrific. So, we pull out our trite Christian answers and hope they are good enough to keep the honest questions at bay.
But somewhere deep inside us a question bumps around our heart. A question so honest we Christians feel we couldn't ever possibly ask it. Where was God?
Where was God when the students were shot?
Where was God when my sister's 18 year-old friend had a headache one day and died suddenly the next?
Where was God when my friend's baby wrapped the umbilical cord about his leg and he died days before he would have otherwise been delivered perfectly healthy?
Where was God when that precious girl was taken, and found a few days later in the trash dump?
Like I said, things so hard we can hardly process them. Sometimes we'd rather make an excuse for God than be brave enough to actually go to God and ask. I've been guilty of this. I've tried to make excuses for God. And I hated the feeling of faking my way through with plastic answers just to gloss over something my God is certainly big enough to answer Himself.
For years, I asked God to help me wrestle with this hard question. And finally an answer came tucked away in Acts 7:54-60, the stoning of Stephen.
It's easy to read the words of the story and miss the reality of what's really happening. Stephen is being brutally murdered. Stephen is living the horrific we can't process. Yet, in the midst of his most desperate moment, Stephen is absolutely not alone.
While I hate - absolutely hate - what is being done to Stephen's body, his soul is experiencing something completely separate. And what I discovered when I dared peak inside the horrific was a miracle that makes me weep with relief.
God was there. Jesus was there. And my Jesus wasn't just sitting by observing. No, He was standing. And please forgive me for daring to make an assumption here but because I know Jesus, I have a picture in my mind of what He must have looked like in this moment. With tears streaming down His face, full of the purest compassion ever known, Jesus makes sure Stephen sees Him. Locks His eyes on his.
And from what I can tell, Stephen never took his eyes off of Jesus.
In the midst of chaos and screaming and the most vicious of acts, Stephen's soul talks with Jesus. His body falls as Stephen cries out forgiveness for all who dare to hear. And with that, a merciful sleep takes Stephen away.
I know this is hard to process.
I know just reading these passages doesn't answer every question.
And might I encourage you to wrestle with this and pray about this and ask God the bold questions that knock around your soul? I'll be posting a little more on this topic on my blog today and I'd love to process this with you further. But, let me assure you I won't be offering cookie cutter answers. These are hard questions with no easy answers.
I don't understand why Stephen had to die this way.
I am still horrified by all of the events I listed above.
And while I don't have all the answers, there is one thing I know for certain. I do know where God was. He wasn't too busy. He wasn't cold and heartless. He wasn't caught off guard.
He was there. And I'm convinced with holy tears dripping in the midst, He is grieved over how sin has broken this world. And He walks to the edge of eternity and reminds us He will avenge, He will redeem, He will make all things right.
Especially those we can't possibly understand right now.
Dear Lord, it is so hard to understand the horrific events that happen. Thank You for this reminder in Stephen's story. Even though we may never have answers on this side of eternity we can still stand on the truth that You are good even when life isn't. But Lord Jesus, please pour out Your loving comfort and reassurances. Our hearts need Your touch in those deep hurting places. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Visit Lysa's blog for more on this tough topic
Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst. Lysa wrote a chapter in this book called "Deep Grief" which equips women to process the harder issues in life for themselves and to better understand how to help a friend through tough times as well.
And, releasing this month is Lysa's 6 week DVD teaching series that is perfect for personal or group studies. Each session is 15- 20 minutes in length. Participant's guides are also available. You can order yours today by clicking here.
Read a couple of chapters in Psalms today and ask God to tenderly speak through His Word. Write down each description of God. Then pray a prayer inserting your name and what God promises to be for you personally.
Is there a person in your sphere of influence who has been wrestling with some tough questions? Why not forward this devotion to them and take time to talk and pray about it together?
John 11:32-33, "When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled." (NIV)
John 11:35, "Jesus wept." (NIV)
© 2009 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Thursday, 10 December 2009.