“God, where are You?” It’s a question of deep struggle that we have all experienced at one time or another. And, maybe that time is right now? Sincere prayers, even desperate cries sent up to God seem to bounce off the ceiling, or just dissolve into thin air. The thought we entertain at these times is, “Maybe one of us in this prayer conversation has gotten up and left the room, and it’s not me.”
The perceived silence of God can be one of the greatest tests of our faith – to feel that loneliness, to feel like we’ve been left out in the rain. But as we bask in the glow of Christmas, returning to the manger to look once again at the Christ Child, we realize as Helmut Thielicke wrote to a former student and exhausted soldier on the Russian front,
“Even when we can no longer think about God or pray to him, he still thinks about us. Even if we can feel nothing of his presence, he still feels for us.”
Yes, and even when we give up searching for him, he has already found us. That’s what the Christmas story is really all about. In the person of Christ, God came to us, he is always there with us, and he is decidedly for us – the manger and the cross are the indisputable proof of that. Afterall, what more could God do to prove to us that he is for us and not against us than to give his own Son into this fallen world to take the cross in our place, exchanging his righteousness for our many sins.
This is the good news that carries us and steadies us as we enter a new year! And may we continue to return to the cradle of Christ and gaze at the reality of what happened on that first Christmas Eve. Our hungry souls need to contemplate the wonder of the God-made-flesh Baby as God’s answer to our lonely question of, “God where are You?” Yes, God does allow us to struggle, to ask that question, but only to lead us away from the answers we wish to impose on him, to his answer. And it’s his answer in Christ that answers all our other God-questions of “Why?” “Where?” “How?” and “What?” As Robert Kolb has written, God answers all these other questions with the “Who” of his Son. The Christ Child, God’s Son, our Brother, was sent to meet us in our questions, in our troubles, in our loneliness, and yes, even in our sinful rebellions. It’s in him where we find God’s forgiveness, help, and companionship.
Thielicke, penned these timeless words in a sermon written in the context of the devastation and hopelessness of a war-torn Germany.
"The Child in the crib was homeless, a refugee. Then came the life-long hostility of men. Finally his life ended on a cross. I believe that all this, is infinitely more comforting than the soft spirit we seek at Christmas. He came down to us in the trenches, down to where we live and worry, and where we must finally die. There is nothing that he did not endure with us. He understands everything."
In the birth of Jesus Christ into our world to be with us and to save us, God has given us the answer of his own Son. In him, God has indeed broken the silence as he proclaims to us, “Here I am. My arms are open wide for you. Nothing that strikes you in this life has not first struck me. I know, I understand, I care, I love, I forgive, and I am trustworthy.”