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Where is God?

August 5, 2011

Where is God?

Often people ask me where God is: Where was God in Japan’s recent tsunami, or in Hurricane Katrina? Where is God in my husband’s death or in my son’s recent diagnosis of leukemia? Where was God when my wife was cheating on me? Or where is God when millions of people suffer with hunger, lack of education or disease?

Each of these questions gets at our inability to understand tragedy and evil. We want to believe that if there is a God, and God believes in good, that God would only allow good things to happen. While there may be faith traditions that would ascribe to this approach, Judaism does not. Judaism teaches that God encompasses all. Additionally, God made humans to be God’s partners in making this world whole and loving, and God created humans with free choice. We are therefore able to choose to do good works or bad, those that heal or those that harm.

While there are many faith leaders in various religions that would say that evil, tragedy and horror are God’s punishment of us for our transgressions, this too can be seriously problematic. It is not a paradigm nor a theology that I can get behind.

What then, do we make of crises, illness beyond our control, tragedy or natural disasters? Rather than ask where God was when these were taking place, we can focus on how we can help. We can reach out to those who experience trauma and loss. We can offer comfort to one who is ill or who just lost a loved one. We can rebuild where disaster has torn down, send food and medicine where there is none to be had. We can join our hands to dig people out of life threatening situations and set them on firm ground until they can once again take care of their own needs. This is where God can be found. In every outstretched hand, in every smiling face, in every financial contribution, in every offered service, God appears. God is present as we work to bring solace and relief, as we use the love in our hearts to help another human being.

I had a teacher once who said that sometimes we ask the wrong question. Rather than ask, “Where was God when the tragedy occurred?” let us ask, “How can I be the messenger of good will in this crisis?” and in so doing, bring God’s light forward in the world.

Robin Damsky

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