Where Was God?

God isn't in school   I’ve been seeing a lot of this type of cartoon lately on Facebook.  Whenever we collectively experience a tragedy like what happened in Connecticut, human nature makes us want to understand why, to place blame,  and maybe to figure out how to prevent it from happening ever again.

This cartoon is a first response to why a tragedy like this happened.  It’s a way of placing blame, of holding someone responsible for 27 deaths.  The implication of this cartoon, though, is that we human beings can actually keep God out of our schools through our government’s laws.  The truth is that God is much bigger than our puny human laws, and the Father, Son, and Spirit can go or dwell wherever they please.  And it pleases them to dwell with men (and women and boys and girls).

I like thinking of God as being all-powerful and omnipresent.  But then I’m faced with acknowledging that my loving, omniscient, all-pervading God was present at Sandy Hook School with the principal, the school psychologist, the teachers, the students, and did nothing to stop what happened.  At least, it looks like the Father, Son, and Spirit did nothing from our limited human perspective.

Some may try to hinge God’s divine intervention  on obedience to a certain set of rules, but you know, for every person who has experienced divine intervention and kept those certain rules, there is at least one (probably more) who kept those same rules and did not get the divine intervention he or she hoped for.  As this cartoon alleges, some say it’s because America took prayer out of schools that we are even experiencing tragedies like this one or Columbine.  And they would be wrong.

The bottom line is that human beings have been given free moral agency, the ability to choose right or the ability to choose wrong.  We all exercise this ability freely, and while we may not end up killing anyone, we have hurt others in our selfish quest to get what we want or think we need.  God gave us this free moral agency so that we could freely choose life and love and God over all of our selfish, lower desires.  God was willing to endure the pain of watching us as we learn, and the Father, Son, and Spirit were willing to watch us endure pain (which has to be harder still) as we learn what’s really important.  Sometimes innocent people suffer as we struggle to learn.

God never left Sandy Hook School, despite the US government’s laws, as if the government ever would be able to control prayer.  He never left Columbine, and He never leaves us.  The Father, Son, and Spirit are willing to endure our pain with us because of their great love for all humankind.  We will never know this side of heaven why God didn’t step in and stop this and other tragedies from occurring, but rest assured, we can know that we are never left to suffer and grieve alone.

The real meaning of Christmas, the Incarnation, is proof of that.  So when we face a tragedy and cry out, asking, “Where was God?” we can know that He was and is always with us.  Emmanuel.

                ~by  Nan Kuhlman

14 comments so far

  1. Ted Johnston on

    Well said Nan. Thank God that he has promised never to leave or forsake us, (even if we should turn away from him). It is the case that our government, under the guise of “political correctness” has tried to expunge God from the public square (including schools). How ironic, that when tragedy hits, the same officials who sought to keep God out now invoke his name. But God is not surprised, he is there all along–he is with us not because of our goodness but because of his grace. That being said, I do hope that tragedies like Sandy Hook to cause us as a society to rethink our anti-God bias.

    • I agree, Ted. I think it’s an insult to my Muslim neighbor if I demand that she becomes something other than a Muslim whenever she engages in public life (whether it’s teaching my children in public school, or drafting legislation in my state’s senate). Whether we’re in the privacy of our homes or out engaging in public life, we are who we are, we come from where we come from, and we see things the way we see things. My life cannot be separated into public and private spheres.

      • Nan Kuhlman on

        John,

        I like your point that our lives cannot be separated into public and private spheres, and I’d like to add for emphasis that they also cannot be separated into spiritual and secular spheres. The spiritual invades all spheres, whether we know it or not.

        Nan

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Ted,

      I’m not sure there’s such an “anti-God” bias as there is an “anti-religion” bias, and with cartoons like this, I can see why. As for the government trying to remove God from the public arena, I think it’s more an effort to keep peace among the various groups who think they have God wrapped up in a nice, neat box. Little do they know, He is too big to be contained in any box or list of rules and regulations.

      Nan

  2. I dropped my kids off at their public school this morning, and was happy to find that the Trinity was there already, and had in fact stayed all night since yesterday. Father takes care of our kids as perfectly as he cared for Jesus during his ~30 years of regular flesh.

  3. Daniel Gore on

    Tim said to read this, so I had a moment to jump on.
    Hello Nan!! Blessings from Tampa FL. Hope you & family are well.
    Just a moment to offer a little different angle here. Statistics say that over 74% of young people leave their Faith/Jesus between the ages of 17 and 24. The main reason given is attendance at a secular college/university. This statistic is nothing less than devastating. I am only beginning to acknowledge the problem and understand it better as my heart breaks for brothers and sisters i know personally who are now too smart for the old fashioned bible and have a new way of being spiritual.

    But good private Christian schools cannot compete with price to those backed by Gov. loans and gifts & scholarships….so many go where they can afford. It does not become personal until you see a dear young person with every God-given gift and the world ahead of them, soon turn their back on Jesus while at college, and now all those things you loved to talk about together are “taboo” because it makes them uncomfortable.

    Will God bring a lot of them back after a few years? Perhaps. But in this new world order, the worst sin is to call something a “sin” and judge. Judging or saying a behavior is wrong is worse than the behavior itself, for many. And to hint that you/one may have a better way, or better path spiritually, via the bible and Jesus Christ, is considered as backward as the Old Testament and Muslim views about women.

    Can an organization or school or nation be impacted more negatively by crime or trouble or attack than one that is openly praying? Are the consequences minimal or large in those nations that are more anti religion or anti- Jesus Christ? You seem to think not. Are many of the blessings our nation enjoys like no other, due to our Judao-Christian values and fair voting goverment? There must be some reason. I believe it is related. Would your ease of spiritual atmosphere be the same living in Nigeria, Europe, China? The various missions folks that come back to USA and visit our church are pretty beat up spiritually. WHy?

    Anyway….I see your side here. But I equally see the other side too as valid.

    I am very concerned for our nation if we do not present an affordable alternative to our young adults like we had in A.C. Tim is an amazing exception to that rule. But I am personally invested and working with local groups here to compete with a strong bible-based accurate and balanced college eventually.

    God bless you and keep on getting people thinking and talking.
    Love,
    Dan

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Dan,

      It is good to hear from you. I appreciate your comments, but I think you may misunderstand the purpose of my post. The purpose was simply to re-emphasize that no one, and especially not the government, is capable of keeping God out of anywhere, and that this Christmas season should bring us the ultimate reminder of that in the Incarnation, the Word Made Flesh, Emmanuel. My hope was that this knowledge would provide comfort to those going through difficult times, by understanding the full implication and blessing of God With Us.

      My intent was not to raise questions about the freedoms we enjoy in this country as opposed to other countries. Our Founding Fathers did have a Judeo-Christian background, but they also seemed to have a good grasp of the failings of humankind in general, as evidenced by their efforts to provide checks and balances within the Constitution. It is unfortunate that other nations do not have these checks and balances to help prevent the misuse of governmental power. My concern is taking the blessings from God that we enjoy and linking them to a particular behavior or set of behaviors, as this can easily spiral into a legalistic, transactional relationship with God rather than the loving parent/child-type relationship that I think we have. The more we love, the more we obey and align ourselves with love, not because we have to, but because that’s what love does.

      Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!
      Nan

  4. Daniel Gore on

    Thanks Nan. I think I left a comment on your blog and forgot to push “Post Comment” button and it is forever gone. Ha! Try to remember what I said…. The cartoon quote about God not being allowed in school is based off of a much longer quote by Billy Graham’s daughter that is very powerful, in response to “there must not be a Jesus/God, or else He would never have allowed kids to be murdered in school/Columbine.” She was trying to basically ask them why they were upset with God when they did not believe in Him or welcome him into their places anyway. She said it lovingly and powerfully.

    Have you read her quote? It is easy to Google. Her quote is in response to criticism of God.

    I think we are saying the same thing, but from different angles. Amen to everything you said about the Grace/love of Jesus to all and bringing hope this time of year. Yes!!

    My point: Yes, we carry Jesus in us through the Holy Spirit, so in effect, he goes where we go and can not be stopped. But we go to places where the powers/people that are in control of those places have “come into agreement” to not allow Jesus or recognition of God in their places of business, school, homes, entertainment, governments, nations, etc. Those places perpetuate bondage & problems, in one shape or form or another.
    Anyway…large subject. Just some thoughts to share on your comments. Thanks for allowing me to share them.

    Blessings and Merry Christmas. Have a fantastic week!

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Dan,

      Thanks for sharing about the origin of the cartoon quote. I did google the quote by Anne Graham Lotz and found it on Snopes.com. I am still concerned about her implying that if prayer had not been taken out of schools that negative events in the U.S. (i.e. school shootings) would not have occurred. According to Snopes, she says in reference to Americans shaking their fists at God and as a result, God left us as a gentlemen by, “Removing his hand of blessing and protection.” I have two problems with this: 1) Our loving Father would never leave us no matter how much we might think we want him to. As a loving parent, he may not be “in our face” but he is always, always wooing us, working with us right where we’re at. As a parent (and as imperfect and faulty as my love is), I would never abandon my child no matter what he/she said or did to me; and 2) I have a problem with the transactional nature implied by Lotz’s statement, i.e., we did this, so God left us; if we want blessing and protection, we need to ask him back. God is interested in a love relationship with us, not to be “used” for protection/blessing as needed. When we stop to consider the shootings that have taken place in churches and those people died, where was God in that situation? I still hold fast to the idea that as painful as it is for him to watch, God gave us free moral agency so that we can freely choose to be with him, enjoying the love and laughter that the Father, Son, and Spirit have enjoyed forever.

      Thanks again for your interest in the post,
      Nan

  5. Daniel Gore on

    I’m sorry. I meant to say more specifically above: The original quote by Grahams daughter about God not being allowed in school was toward those highly critical of God allowing school shootings, and not critical toward or preaching at unbelievers who are under some kind of religious Judgment. Perhaps some have taken it that way, but that was not the original quote in my opinion. Thanks again.

  6. Daniel Gore on

    Thanks for your comments Nan. That helps. I can respond here on the blog or off, if better. I guess I would have to better understand what you mean by a transactional god being the problem. Or if you can point me to another blog you may have written on that subject/content. Pretty huge subject, of course. I can catch up to you sometime and chat in the future.

    My question is always: How does this work in the marketplace or real world? How many have been set free, how many come to Christ, how many changed, miracles, outside of the church. I have seen & experienced & heard of countless examples where power encounters change things when Christians stand on the word….from a platoon in Iraq that read Psalms 91 everyday and never lost a soldier in the worst battles…to folks shutting down the worst criminals and attacks through taking authority in Christ over the spirit of the rapist or killer…etc.

    The testimonials are so numerous as to think that we need classes on these things, and for our kids as well.

    Not to say that God does not allow saints to be slain or die to disease who had great faith, at times. But those are the exceptions more than the rule. As the Kingdom in us invades and confronts the little kingdoms of this world, things change, stuff is affected, lives are turned. And sometimes those are power confrontations.

    We can’t change much without power — which is why power is brought up so much in the Gospel. But the secret really is: Power to bind and loose things in our world comes from intimacy time, praise/worship, revelation of adoption, and knowing just how good He really is…which is the part I think you are trying to express here.

    Blessings!

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Dan,

      Perhaps my term “transactional relationship” is confusing. I simply was referring to a legalistic relationship with God, as defined by the gci.org web article, “What Is the Law of God for Christians Today?” Here’s a brief excerpt: “Legalistic rules also become the measuring stick by which behavior (both one’s own and that of others’) is judged as acceptable or deviant. All Christians have to do is follow the rules and perform their religious duties and thereby believe God is on their side. The problem with this approach is that the legalists’ faith is in their rules and not in Christ to lead and teach them by his Spirit to understand the spiritual intent of the law. Often without realizing it, legalists rest in their own works instead of the redemptive work of Christ.” In other words, our relationship with God becomes a “transaction,” where if I do this, God must do that. As mentioned, the danger is that the motivation for any obedience becomes what I can get out of it, rather than a loving response to the overwhelming love I’ve received.

      You also might find Jonathan Stepp’s post “Is the United States a Christian Nation?” of interest.

      Best wishes,
      Nan

  7. Jerome Ellard on

    Such a horrific occurence. Phillip Yancey was invited, along with his wife Janet (former hospice counselor) to come and speak with and minister to the community in Newtown by Walnut Hill Community Church there. You can see his talk at their website. Adam Lanza, from what I’ve read, was, in his own mind, about to lose his relationship with his mom. We are relationally wired, even if we don’t know it. Help us share the reality of God’s relationship with us all! Good post, Nan.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Jerome,

      Thanks for the interesting side information and your kind encouragement. It really does come down to our relationship with God and our relationships with each other.

      Nan


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