Where was God?

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God’s eyes are always on his kids

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

I’m going to toss a direct question out there for those of you who are outliving a child. Perhaps you have asked the question either silently or openly: Where was God when my loved one died?

Someone whispered in my ear at the time of my son’s death that God was with him when he drew his last breath. My first thought was ~ then he could have prevented it rather than allow it. You may have had similar thoughts. But there are always life lessons we may glean from scripture and perhaps we can gain understanding to apply to this very important question.

The story of the crucifixion of Jesus always saddens and yet fascinates me. Where was God the Father while God the Son, Jesus, was on the cross? Did He go fishing? Was He on a Cosmos Tour? Or was He present? Let’s glean some thoughts from scripture to capture what might have been and then see if perhaps there is a parallel application for our understanding.

If you are a believer and are familiar with the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, then you have probably read the story in the Gospels as relayed by some of his disciples. Luke describes events that transpired after Jesus died this way: Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. Luke 23:44-45

Matthew adds a bit more detail: Jesus again gave a loud cry and breathed His last. Then the curtain hanging in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split apart.  Matthew 27:50-51

Around the time of Jesus’ death, the veil was torn in half. To rip the veil (which was about 40 cubits or 60 ft high) in the temple in half, someone needed to be there to tear it. And to tear it from top to bottom, one would have to be a very tall person. Also, there was darkness on the earth as the sun had disappeared. There was darkness at the events at Mount Sinai too, when God came near the people: Exodus 20:21 says, So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was. So God hid Himself in darkness at Mount Sinai. Did God hide himself in the darkness at the cross too? Did God himself tear the veil?

Note there were also earthquakes in connection with God’s presence:  The mountains quake before Him, the hills melt, and the earth heaves at His presence, yes, the world and all who dwell in it.  Nahum 1:5

But this still does not tell us for sure where God was when his Son died or does it? What about the story in the Old Testament when Abraham was instructed to sacrifice his son? Where was God then? Could it be a parallel to the crucifixion? Let’s review the high points of this story.

It had been a long day and Abraham was bone tired and sound asleep when his head touched the pillow, but suddenly he was wide awake. Was that God? Did I hear a command or was I dreaming? O, please, may I be dreaming! Abraham pinched himself. Ouch! That hurt! No, he was not asleep and that was a directive from a voice he had grown to know:

God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”  Genesis 22:2

Not my boy, God, not my boy! I am sure Abraham pleaded and argued in a one-sided conversation, but God spoke no more on the subject. Abraham had always obeyed God even when the request made no sense, but those was nothing compared to what God was telling him to do now. This was the ultimate test. Would he fail? Was it strange that God also pointed out the obvious ~ take your only son, whom you love?

It must have been the longest three days in history as father and son made their way to the place where God had instructed. I am sure there was conversation, perhaps even lighthearted boy talk on the part of Isaac. He had often taken part in sacrifices with his dad. It was a huge part of their way of life so this trip was not unusual . . . yet.

Finally the hard question that Abraham knew was coming: Dad, “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Genesis 22:7

Scripture simply says that the father bound his son and laid him on the altar, but what a loaded sentence! Can you picture the scene? I’ve never been asked to point a gun toward my child and pull the trigger . . . but essentially this is what God asked Abraham to do. There would be fire and there would be death.

God was watching this drama unfold . . . no doubt about that. This was the severest test of Abraham’s life, the only one of its kind in Scripture and the relationship between God and Abraham hung in the balance ~ pass or fail. Give up your only son that you love and prayed for and thought he would never be born. You must kill him to serve Me. How crazy does this sound!

The Bible says that Abraham raised the knife high in the air with Isaac watching his father’s face in horror or did he have his eyes squeezed tightly shut anticipating the pain? I can’t imagine more . . . perhaps you can, but the picture in my mind is clear. The scene was horrific to be sure.

 At that moment the Angel of God shouted to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes, Lord!” he answered.

And He said, Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear and revere God, since you have not held back from Me or begrudged giving Me your son, your only son.  Geneses 22:11-12

Can we combine these two stories from both Old and New Testament and apply them to our question for a possible view of God’s relationship to His children? I think we can. A parallel story to the crucifixion is the story of Abraham ordered to sacrifice Isaac. Father Abraham was with his son the whole time, even up to the point where Isaac was about to die. Likewise, isn’t it possible that the God was with his Son during his agony and death? There is an obvious difference in that once Abraham passed the test, God supplied the sacrifice, but there was no substitute sacrifice at the cross. Father was forced to watch the agony and death of his only Son, for it took Jesus’s blood to wash away our sins. What a heart-wrenching scene for God the Father to watch!

So how does this help me in my struggle? Here’s a possible angle:  God loves each one of his kids. He hates the sin and cruelty we endure, but he gives us total freedom to choose. The enemy pushes and prods and goads us to sin. The more kids he kills, the more he hurts God’s heart. This planet is a war zone with spiritual consequences. Do you agree? There are bound to be casualties because we live with death and destruction all around us. But it is so entirely different and much worse when it happens too close to home, to our family.

God says all things will be made plain one day. It’s hard to wait. But when we are finally able to hug the ones we have loved and longed to see for so long ~ with all of us brand new ~ some questions may slip from mind.

God says he never changes. He’s always been loving and kind and good and has our best interest at heart. Just as he was with Abraham through the extreme test for his obedience, I have no doubt that God, the Father was by his only Son’s side as he suffered and died. You couldn’t part them, not even in the struggle to save humanity.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!  Psalm 36:7, NIV

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10 thoughts on “Where was God?

    • You are most welcome and thank you for responding. It is nice to make cyber connections with fellow travelers. You are always welcome to browse in the archives since I have been at this awhile and please return often to tell it like it is. God keeps me grounded and those he sends along the way. Blessings, Gracie

  1. My personal beliefs are the following: the veil was torn by
    God to show that the old covenant was no longer valid, and a new one established with the sacrifice of His son. The earthquake showed to all Gods presence and the darkening of the sun showed that God was grieving for his precious son. Also, a sign of His power. When my son died, I wished I could darken all the world, because only someone who loses a child can know that kind of pain.

    • You are so right…only those of us who lose a child know that kind of pain. The Father knows that kind of pain. Perhaps he hid himself in the darkness ~ my mother’s heart knows she could never not be there as ugly and painful as it had to have been.Thank you for sharing. ~Gracie

  2. I am certain that God could have prevented my son’s death (and in fact, for all I know, maybe He did several times before He allowed it). This fact, that He chose to allow it, was one of my first thoughts and is one of my greatest sources of comfort. Josh was in so much pain, and we never even guessed the extent of it. God wastes nothing. He allowed Josh to be released from his agony and at the same time set in motion a chain of events that will accomplish His purpose in the lives of Josh’s family, friends, and others still on earth. God is not capricious. He has a plan, and although the world is fallen, His plan is good and will reach fruition.

      • I worked on this during the summer. In a nutshell:
        A Mom’s Perspective
        Priscilla Partridge, mother of Josh Partridge
        Our son Josh was always so high achieving that we didn’t realize at first anything was amiss. As a young child he loved being surrounded by friends and family, loved to go out to the park or library, to play or learn, and he learned quickly; he could follow multiple step instructions, and he slept well. He did have terrible tantrums at home when he was grade school age and younger, but I encouraged him to learn to control his temper and it seemed as though by middle school he had learned to do that. In retrospect, I think he must have just buried it and learned not to show it outwardly.
        As he entered preadolescence, some of the changes he went through-–aversions to textures, sounds, to leaving the house, or even reluctance to leave his room; increasing inability to sleep, attention problems, and perfectionism—developed over time. Socially he did fine. He could be nice and polite and friendly, but as time passed, he seemed to find less and less people whom he felt he truly liked him and/or had much in common with him. By high school he was emotionally pushing others away, except for his closest friends. But he developed skill at being personable and friendly when in class or around friends or even, I am realizing, when at home downstairs.
        Josh made high grades throughout school, qualified and excelled in magnet schools in both middle and high school and was a National Merit Finalist, giving him a full scholarship to Baylor University. He got a paid internship with Rackspace that was renewed each summer since high school. But every year through middle and high school was a marathon of him coming home, working through the afternoon and evening on homework, break for dinner, and working on into the night. We didn’t tell him to do it, he was self-motivated to make good grades. College was worse. The past three years he got less and less sleep at night, yet fought to keep his grades up and maintain his scholarship. He frequently stayed up all night to finish his work. He told us he didn’t have time for friends in college. We were under the impression that he went from his apartment to class and back again and that was his life. Of course we urged him to take some time out, make friends, and have some fun in college.
        I took him to the doctor several times during college. He downplayed his insomnia and attention problems but was informally diagnosed with depression; at an appointment in December, when asked, he admitted to having suicidal thoughts. Again, he downplayed, saying that they were occasional and that he didn’t have a plan. Just before spring break this year, he told me he couldn’t stay on task with his homework more than about 10 minutes at a time. He was finally prescribed an antidepressant Sertraline (generic Zoloft) right at the end of spring break.
        A week and a half later, 11 days after his 21st birthday, Josh mixed noxious chemicals in his car. The police found his body on an isolated road in the back seat of his car with biohazard warnings taped to the car windows to protect first responders. We were in complete shock. We had known he was struggling, but we hadn’t imagined to what extremes. An outpouring of love and compassion came from Baylor students and administration. As it turned out, he did have friends, and made a valiant effort to be to spend time with them, often during a midnight study break. He had never told them about his depression, suicidal thoughts, or the medication he’d begun taking.
        Parents of adolescents and young adults want to love their kids and yet don’t want to stifle them. It’s so hard to know how to walk that thin line. Obviously relationship building begins when kids are young and that relationship changes in nature over time. But how do you maintain it when they become more and more withdrawn and want their privacy? I think at least part of the answer is to take interest in their interests, even if it’s something that really isn’t your thing. If it’s important to them, it should be important to you. Intervene if they are involved in something dangerous, illegal, or immoral, but otherwise try to find ways to show interest and acceptance and use the interest as one way to spend time and start conversations with your kids. A good book to read that talks about ways to express love to your teen is The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman. And of course pray for your kids every day, as well as for your own wisdom in parenting.
        My true anchor in this bizarre storm of the last three months is Jesus Christ. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him…” This is certainly true for us. God provided for all our needs and sent godly people to reach out to us. We already knew we had good family and friends but we didn’t realize how supportive and kind God’s people could be. He provided overwhelming compassion through our church family, coworkers, and Josh’s friends and teachers from high school and college. Our hope is in Him. Early in life, Josh put his faith in the forgiveness of Christ. As a teenager, he rethought that commitment and began seriously trying to live his life for God. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him,” and 5:10 also says, “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.”
        We will see Josh again. It seems so long and far away from where we are now, but when we enter eternity it won’t even be an eye blink of time. In the meantime, he’s in the place of perfect comfort and joy, the house of God.

        By the way, this only happened in March of 2014; 6 months later is too soon to really see the chain of events. But for me, at least, I know that I am beginning to be a different person. Better, hopefully. ;p

      • Pricilla, your story is touching. I am so sorry for your pain. We have better vision after the fact which is so hard and sometimes we forgive ourselves with difficulty, wondering how we could not have figured it out before. My boy was 30, seeing life pass him by. He wanted to get married and have a family and the latest girl dumped him. He had a tender heart and these breakups always seemed to come from the female side. My son made two attempts earlier in his life, but I truly thought he had turned a corner. Maybe I was being hopeful. Those he worked with had no clue. Depression is such a slimy monster robbing our kids of their spirit and keeping them silent for fear of the shame if others knew.

        I would love to share your story, parts of it anyway, in a future blog if you have no objection. It seems we gain understanding when we share the hard stuff together. But I won’t without your permission and I would want to send you drafts for your approval. If you are willing then I would need your email address. Thank you again for sharing your son’s life with me. His death is so fresh for you and yet you are able to tell your story so eloquently. God is comforting you, holding you, walking with you and sheltering you and he will always. Blessings friend, Gracie

      • I am honored that you trust your private, painful words with me. I will send a draft in due course for your changes/approval. Perhaps your story will bless someone else. Blessings to you this day, sweet friend. Blessings, Gracie

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