Where is God?

By Bill Lewellis
Jan. 11, 2016

In "Night," Elie Wiesel’s book about the horrors of living in a concentration camp, he tells about the night a young boy was hung. He didn’t weigh enough to die instantly. He struggled for life at the end of the rope. The other prisoners were forced to watch without being able to help.

Behind him, Wiesel heard a man ask: “Where is God now?” Wiesel heard a voice within him answer, “Where is He? Here He is. He is hanging here on the gallows."

During most of my days as a priest, whenever anyone in a especially tragic situation asked me, “Where is God?” I thought of this passage from "Night."

Where is God during any person’s suffering? God is suffering, weeping with them. God was jumping from the flames, out of the 80th floor of the Twin Towers. God was crying with the parents of young children when a gunman fatally shot 20 of them at the the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

As God was with the Irish, Lithuanian, Slovak, Polish and Italian immigrants who were once spat upon and marginalized, so now God is with the Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, Hispanics and others who are rashly judged and marginalized today.

No answer we can give to this mystery is satisfactory. We still wonder. We still hurt. In my wonder, I like Elie Wiesel’s answer best.

Where was God when Jesus died on the cross? Suffering and dying with him. Where was God when the Jews experienced the tragic horrors of the Holocaust? Suffering and dying with them.

I favor this reflection so much more than the one offered in an Internet video I saw recently. It said that God is not with us because we, our culture or the laws of our land push God away.

Francis struggles to answer crying girl's question about suffering

[National Catholic Reporter] Tearfully recounting a young life as yet spent forced to forage for food from garbage and to sleep outside on cardboard mats, 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar had a simple but profound question for Pope Francis."Why did God let this happen to us?" the young Filipino asked, covering her face with her hands as she sobbed.Speaking on a stage in front of some 30,000 young people as part of a meeting between Francis and Filipino youth Sunday, Palomar's intense query visibly affected the pontiff.  

Putting aside a text he had prepared for the occasion in order to respond directly to the young woman, Francis answered her with a 40-minute reflection on the nature of suffering, love, and service."The nucleus of your question almost doesn't have a reply," the pontiff said at first, pain clearly etched on his face as he mentioned that he had seen her tears."Only when we too can cry about the things that you said are we able to come close to replying to that question," Francis continued.

"Why did children suffer so much?" he asked. "Why do children suffer?" "Certain realties in life we only see through eyes that are cleansed through our tears," Francis said. Read on.