March 24, 2022

Find Your Identity In God

But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons.  They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, “Send them back.”  Isaiah 44:22

Have you noticed that invariably when you connect with someone who answers your call on a cell phone, you immediately ask, “Where are you?” Whether it is your teenager who is checking in with you, your husband who is on a business trip, or a friend you haven’t heard from for a while, you want to know where the person is, so instinctively you ask, “Where are you?”  Inversely if you get a call that originates from a friend who calls you on a cell phone, you are asked, “Do you know where I am?” Knowing this establishes an identity and a personal connection.

Andy Crouch, writing for Christianity Today, says, “Modernity is built in no small part on technologies of presence.  From the cellular telephone to television to air travel, we are embedded in a web of devices that make us seem to be somewhere we are not, or that remove us from one place and take us to another with speeds that would have seemed supernatural to our ancestors” (“Grounded,” CT, November 12, 2001, p. 97).

It is not only our friends and family who are asked, “Where are you?” or “Do you know where I am?”  God is asked the same question.  Whether it is a personal tragedy, a difficult time in your life, or something you have to work through, you immediately ask, “God, are you there?  Do you know where I am?” What you really want to know is, “Are you really in control?” and “Can I really count on you to take me through this difficult time?”

While we tend to think that only immature individuals ask, “God, are you there?” the reality is that even mature saints who get hit with things, felled by tragedies and losses which they hadn’t expected, cry out in the dark as their hearts search for answers.  When his wife died with cancer, the renowned British pastor, Joseph Parker, waxed in the despair of atheism for days, asking himself how a loving God could allow anyone to suffer as had his dear wife.

A friend of mine, a mature believer of many years, went through the same experience when doctors said that the surgery which they felt was necessary came with the risk of possible failure.  When his wife died, something died within him. “God, where were You when I needed you?” he cried out.

Following the September 11 tragedy at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, hundreds of thousands of people asked, “God, where were you?”  No, I don’t agree with the somewhat cynical answer that God had looked the other way because New Yorkers had turned their back on Him, but I do recognize that God never promised to deliver His own from the stark realities of living in an evil, sinful world.

On one occasion I was asked by a Jew in Israel where God was when 6 million Jews died in the concentration camps of the Third Reich.  Meaning neither to be flippant or combative, I replied that God was in the same place He was on the dark day when His Son died at the hands of Roman soldiers outside the walls of Jerusalem long ago, the day Jesus cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

William Law, a Puritan who was born in 1686, long before cellular phones and instant communication, wrote, “Whenever, therefore, you find yourselves disposed to uneasiness or murmuring at anything that is the effect of God’s providence over you, you must look upon yourself as denying either the wisdom or goodness of God.”

When you ask, “God, do you know where I am?” listen quietly.  He knows your name, where you are, what you think, and where you hurt.  Of this you can be sure. Long ago, the scripture said, “The Lord is near to those with a broken heart” (Psalm 34:18), and, “He knows those who cry out to Him in the day of trouble” (Psalm 20:1). “Where are you God?” Listen carefully because you will hear Him respond, “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you!” (Hebrews 13:5).

Resource reading: Jeremiah 37:1-21.