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Day 29 of Lent: Why doesn’t God come down?

March 15, 2013

Verse for reflection: As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:13

I had to dash out during the middle of a day-log seminar on the future shape of Christian education, to carpool some nursery schoolers home.

“I don’t believe in Santa Claus,” Brian chattered (it was a few weeks before Christmas), “because how could he come down a chimney?”

I had not come up with a response by the time his busy, wonderful mind had linked this problem with another. Pausing, he looked at me with the biggest black eyes: “Why doesn’t God come down?”

“You mean to earth?”

“Yeah.”

“You mean why can’t we see God?”

Brian solemnly nodded.

In that instant, all the theorizing I had heard that morning about the shape of Christian education and the future came alive. Here was a teaching moment more valuable than the best planned Sunday school lesson. Here was a bright four-year-old asking the question of the ages, a question theologians and philosophers and popes have pondered and debated.

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Brian, from nursery school.

We were already at his stop. I put the van in park and gave him a big smile. “That’s a wonderful question, Brian, one that lots of people think about.”

Then I tried to put into brief, simple words the idea that God did come down to earth in the form of baby Jesus. But Jesus had to go back to live with God. Now we can’t see Jesus or God anymore except in the loving, sharing things people do for each other.

Brian’s face changed from quizzical to satisfied-for-now and he hopped out of the van.

As I drove away, marveling at the ability of children to cut through verbiage, the conversation took me to a larger question. Why doesn’t God come down as people suffer, nations go to war, and natural disasters take their toll? How can a loving God sit back and allow all the terrible stuff to go on?

I find comfort in acknowledging that much of the terrible stuff is caused by people, and natural disasters are just that: disasters caused by forces in nature. I don’t believe God sits around pulling strings on hurricanes to make them hit one town and avoid the next.

So is God powerless to intervene? No. But God gave us free choice, which we learn in the story of Adam and Eve.

When we ask, “Where is God amid suffering?” we can know that God (whether we admit or recognize it) can be there giving us strength to go on. Someone put it this way: “God’s heart breaks with ours in tragedy or death and puts loving arms around us as we grieve.”

All of this becomes more real as the loving actions of friends, family and church help us in concrete ways. When we take someone a dish, share a cup of coffee, provide transportation, a hug—then God truly does come down!

Action: How can I show God to someone during this season of Lent?

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Emma, one of many beautiful children I enjoyed getting to know better by teaching Sunday school.

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From → Faith, Family Life

2 Comments
  1. Why doesn’t God come down as people suffer, nations go to war, and natural disasters take their toll? How can a loving God sit back and allow all the terrible stuff to go on?

    To these questions I have a rather condemning answer: …because, when Jesus was resurrected and taken back to the Father, he told his disciples “Greater things will you do than I have done.” The real question is… why aren’t WE doing anything about it? Jesus is “God with us”…and we are the body of Christ, of Jesus. So… doesn’t that mean that we, who are part of Jesus body, are also “God with us?”

    If that’s the case… where is Jesus, the body, when people are suffering, when war is raging, and when disasters strike? if the world is asking those questions… it makes me wonder why they aren’t seeing Jesus show up… in us….

  2. You have taken the challenge a whole lot further … thanks. In my book with this story, I also contemplate how much risk we take–how much are we called to take? Like the early Anabaptists? Like those who do civil disobedience to protest conditions of the world, even though they end up having to sacrifice time with their families through jail time? We each answer that call differently, and have lots of excuses. But thanks for the thoughts.

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