Have you ever found yourself wondering, in difficult times perhaps, why God doesn’t intervene, why God doesn’t seem to show up to fix the problem, or soothe your fears, or heal your hurt? God’s apparent absence may seem a bit suspicious.
For age upon age, people have looked into the heavens, stood in silence, and breathed the question, “Is anybody there?” The question of God’s existence has haunted humanity and led us to a variety of conclusions. Some have answered the question with a kind of wishful agnosticism, saying we can’t really prove much about the existence of God, but we can hope. Some have answered the question with a bitter atheism, saying there is surely no God at all. Some have answered the question by supposing that God’s power and dominion is vast, and God simply chooses to remain remote from us. How do you answer the question, “Is anybody there?”
Mark Rayburn has told a story that may help us grapple with the question of God’s existence. According to Rayburn, there was once a little boy who believed that the blue sky was just a big blue tent. But when he went to school, he learned that the sky was not a big blue tent. So he reported to his friends that sadly, there was nothing up there! Hearing the news, one of the little boy’s friends tilted his head back and gazed high into the air. He looked at the beautiful blue sky that stretched from one horizon to another, and then he asked, “So if there is nothing there, then what is behind the nothing?”
Existence is puzzling, isn’t it? What’s behind it? You can’t get very far into the Bible without realizing that others have struggled with what is just beyond their grasp, just out of sight, and tantalizingly out of reach. In fact, you could argue that the creation story in the Book of Genesis is a gorgeous affirmation about one who is before anything else is, the source of being itself, the one who is before time and space, the one who creates a universe with stars and planets and galaxies, vegetation and living creatures, cattle and birds and fish and people. It is about whatever is behind the nothing and has dispelled the nothing, granting existence to all that is.
It’s not uncommon for us human beings to expect God to act in certain ways, or be visible to us in certain ways, and for us to be disappointed when our expectations are not met. Perhaps, we wonder, if God is not exactly the being we thought He was, or ought to be, then He doesn’t exist at all. But what if in times of doubt or discouragement we kept foremost in our minds the image of the one behind it all, who formed the far distant galaxies but draws near enough to tenderly breathe life into us?
Is anybody there? How would we know? Gaze into the heavens to see the handiwork of their maker. Then witness acts of creative goodness that continue right here among us. In every fresh deed of compassion, every new act of mercy, every gracious offer of forgiveness, every bold stroke for justice – there we see the ongoing presence of the living, caring, ever-present, ever-creative God.