When You Can't See God
Updated: Jun 8
I have a hard time seeing God in my circumstances sometimes. But, I always see God in people.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, it was hard to see God in that. It’s hard to see God in the whitewashed walls of hospital rooms, the relentless needle pokes, the physical pain and grief. It’s hard not to feel abandoned, forgotten, and dare I say… betrayed?
“My God, My God… why have you forsaken me?” is the cry Jesus makes from the cross. We often try to read all these theological implications into that statement. Perhaps it was simply the humanity of Jesus.
In the midst of great suffering, he couldn’t help but wonder: where was God?
There are theories that it was at this moment Jesus was taking on the sins of the world and it was God’s wrath that he was experiencing.* Those who adhere to this theory often say Jesus was punished and forsaken, so that none of us ever have to feel that way. Jesus took on all our pain and suffering so that we don’t have to suffer.
The problem is there is still pain. There is still suffering. Those who feel forsaken in the midst of it can often feel a lot of guilt or shame for feeling that way.
And yet, Jesus himself felt that way.
What if the implications of Jesus’ statement on the cross is not so much that Jesus suffered so that we don’t have to. Or, that God actually turned his back on Jesus in that moment. What if it was meant to show us that suffering is a part of life. We can’t avoid it. It is inevitable. Not even perfection will allow you to escape it.
Jesus led a sinless life as the Son of God and still suffered. He still felt abandoned. His heart was broken. He felt forsaken.
The point is not to escape suffering. The point is that we are not alone in it.
Even though I had a hard time seeing God in my circumstances after being diagnosed, I did see God in the people who surrounded me. God was in my husband who held me in his arms and cried with me.
God was in our friends and family who showed up with cards and food and prayer blankets.
God was in the hospital staff that granted us an exception so that James could be with me in pre-op before my bladder removal surgery – and then let him stay with me over night after it took hours to get me into a hospital room.
God was with the operations nurse who met us before our surgery and made us feel like everything was going to be okay.
God was in my surgeon, his passion for building urinary diversions and the expertise he practiced in the hospital room.
God was in the nurses who took care of me after, who went out of their way to get me a good hospital room, who wiped my skin clean to avoid infection, who checked in and gave me shots, who taught us how to take care of my new bladder.
At the scariest moment of our lives, those hospital nurses made us feel taken care of and like it was the most natural thing in the world.
I couldn’t see God in my cancer. But, I did see God in people. People who consider themselves Christians and people who do not.
It doesn’t matter. I saw God in all of them.
And, I still do.
*An example of this line of thinking can be seen in the popular The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. An excerpt of which I’ve provided here: “In this unique and strange miracle, Jesus was crying out in anguish because of the separation He now experienced from His heavenly Father for the first and only time in all of eternity. It is the only time of which we have record that Jesus did not address God as Father. Because the Son had taken sin upon Himself, the Father turned His back.”