Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
These questions can haunt us during the worst of our dealings with cancer or any other difficulty. After being widowed, becoming an empty nester, and losing the mother whom she’d cared for, my mother once told me, “Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person on the planet.” God seems far away, playing some cosmic game of hide-and-seek. Except it feels as if we’re not going to find God or to be found.
Although the questions may be perfectly valid in expressing how we feel, and we do need to express those feelings, I think they are the wrong questions. God does not play games with us. God loves us with a love we cannot begin to imagine and does not wish us pain—not even, as some would have it, to test us or to make us better. (I know people who claim to be better persons for having had cancer, but cancer’s had the opposite effect on me. I am a crabbier person with this disease.)
Instead of perceiving God as far away and hiding, we need to refocus and look for God in unexpected places. King Lear says that he and his daughter will “take upon ’s the mystery of things As if we were God’s spies.” Maybe it’s not that God hides, but that God delights in costumes.
Yesterday, for example, God showed up as a friend bearing a zucchini and black raspberries, as a magnificent rainbow after a downpour, and in a bright quarter moon so dazzling it competed with the fireworks display.
My problem is that sometimes I want to hand God my script of how my life should go. But God isn’t interested in following my scripts. God may be the ultimate improv artist, ready to do something amazing with whatever I toss out, or to toss a line to me to see what I will do with it. In the medieval period, this relationship was considered the Great Dance. It’s about moving to whatever music we hear, whether it’s Samuel Barber’s haunting “Adagio for Strings” or a rollicking Irish gig. It’s about trusting that Someone is there.