I just watched “The Birth of a Nation,” and despite the controversy around the movie, I thought it was very well done. It was inspiring to me as a preacher. I even read “The Confessions of Nat Turner” after I watched the movie. Many moments in the movie stand out to me, but one particular scene really stands out. One of the enslaved men on the same plantation as Nat Turner had to give his wife to the “master’s” friend to be raped. The enslaved man struggled with the decision, but ultimately conceded. After the master returned his wife to the slave quarters, the man asks Nat Turner, who is a preacher, “Where is God now?”
Where is God now?
This is a question that stumps believers and nonbelievers alike. After all, look at the condition of the world. Look at the people’s mindsets. Women and girls are snatched from their mother’s arms, still. People are kidnapped and murdered for prostitution rings and organ harvesting. People seeking refuge are thrown into prison and abused. The mentally ill are left in solitary confinement to die. Children are body slammed to the ground by resource officers. Some teachers abuse special needs, nonverbal children. Diseases are rampant. Homelessness abounds. The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer. Evil seems to be winning, and people want to know WHERE IS GOD NOW?
Jesus wrestled with God’s seeming absence when he suffered on the cross. He cried out in Matthew 27:46, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He felt abandoned by God. Maybe Jesus even felt defeated as many of us do when we are met with unimaginable suffering? However, we know that God didn’t forsake Jesus, but in God’s sovereignty, allowed Jesus’ suffering to accomplish a greater purpose – the salvation and redemption of the whole world.
“Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5).
Many of us have suffered and endured tremendous trials and tribulations for a similar reason, so that the glory of God might be revealed through us (John 9:3). Why would God allow horrible things to happen to us just to reveal God’s glory? I’m glad you asked. People don’t believe in God or in God’s power. The don’t believe in the nature of God or in God’s character. They believe God to be evil. They’ve allowed the darkness of this world to blind them to truth. When unbelievers see us face the unimaginable with supernatural strength and endurance and give credit to and still honor God, it plants a seed in them. When they see us praise God in the midst of sorrow, uncertainty, persecution, and disappointment, it pierces their spirit, whether they acknowledge it or not. Our witness starts to chip away at their hardened heart, and it lets them know that there is more to the world than what we can see with our physical eyes. There’s a powerful force behind us, sustaining us, encouraging us, upholding us, strengthening us and loving us. It is why we can say, as it says in Philippians 3:8, “More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” (NRSV). The nature of God and Jesus are revealed to us in a way that we would have never known had we not suffered. The good news is that everything we’ve lost, God will give back to us – eventually. That’s the hope we have in Jesus and that’s why we can claim the victory over death and its “sting.”
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors’” Luke 2:13-14 (NRSV).
Advent is a reminder that a great Light has come into the world (John 1). That great Light is Jesus. Jesus gives us the power to becomes sons and daughters of the Most High God. Jesus allows us to face darkness in any form because of His light, and the light that lives in us when we receive Him, will not be overpowered by darkness. This is good news. This is the hope of our salvation.
Towards the end of the movie, Nat Turner, pulls the other enslaved man aside, and tells him, “God is here.” That’s all I want to say in this Advent season. God is here. He hasn’t abandoned His children. Many of us are facing wilderness situations and the world seems like an unredeemable wasteland. However, God is here. Do you not perceive it? He will make a way in the wilderness and will make refreshing streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:19).