“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this evening comes from the Old Testament lesson read a few moments ago from the fortieth chapter of the prophet Isaiah. Dear friends in Christ: Where is God? ‘Where is God?’ asks a nation, a community, a neighborhood ravaged by disaster or touched by tragedy. ‘Where is God?’ asks the unbeliever, seeing suffering all around him. ‘Where is God?’ asks the father, as he buries his daughter. ‘Where is God?’ asks the man who has just lost his job, who has hungry mouths at home to feed. ‘Where is God?’ asks the couple, who has lost a child in the womb. ‘Where is God?’ asks the woman, who has just received a diagnosis of cancer. ‘Where is God?’ asks the widow, destitute and alone. ‘Where is God?’ asks the child, standing beside the coffin of his mother. Where is God? “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’?”
Is God powerless? Can He save? Are our sufferings too powerful for Him to deal with? Can cancer conquer Him, can Alzheimer’s or dementia? Is He weak and helpless against the tornado, the flood? Where is God as a child suffers, as families gather in funeral homes, as the young woman lies in a hospital bed surrounded with wires and tubes? Where is God? Is He absent from the nursing home, from the hospital, the ICU, the NICU? Is depression, alcoholism, mental illness too much for Him to heal? Where is God? “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.” Where is God? He does not save right now, so He must not be able to save. If God will not intervene, where do we turn? If God is powerless, who is powerful? In whom should we place our fear, love, and trust? Is it tougher laws, a more powerful government, that will save us from destitution and chaos? Do we place our reliance on doctors, specialists, experts who know all things? Do we trust in courts, in judges, to make right what God has left wrong? If our suffering is greater than God can handle, then the solution must be greater than God. If God is absent, if God will not answer, then we must turn to men, to the things of this world. They will become our gods; they will act, they will save. They must, we have no other hope: Where is God?
“My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.” Where is God? Why does He not act? Why doesn’t He intervene, why doesn’t He save? Why does He leave me alone? Is His eye elsewhere, is He looking in favor on someone else? Why do others, even those who despise you, have everything going well, while I suffer? Why doesn’t He act, why doesn’t He save? Why doesn’t He see, why doesn’t He realize the pain and hurt that fills my life? I am lost, abandoned, forsaken; God has hidden Himself from me, I am hidden from His sight. He has disregarded my cause; He has left me to face the evil of this world by myself. Where is God’s justice? Has He forgotten me? Does He remember me at all?
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” God remembers you. Have you not known? Have you not heard? God remembers you. He does not forget any member of His creation, and He has not forgotten you, His beloved. He who holds all creation in His loving hands is not too great to remember you, He is too great to forget you. “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power not one is missing.” He who knows every star by name knows you by name. He knows your sufferings, He knows your struggles, He knows your pain. Even the hairs on your head are numbered; much more does He know your sufferings. And He is not idle, He is not absent; He goes into action. He has not forgotten you, and He sets Himself forth to do something about your sufferings.
There is your God. There, on the cross, hanging there, suffering, dying for you. There is your God. Your God is Jesus Christ, God made flesh, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep, the Suffering Servant who serves up even His own life. Your God suffers all in you place, taking on your flesh and blood, then bearing your sin and your sin’s penalty. Your God takes up your cause, He acts to vindicate you by giving Himself into death in your place. On the Last Day, your righteousness, now hidden in suffering, will be seen by all, you will be vindicated. Your pleas have not gone unanswered; they have not been ignored. Jesus is God’s reply to your cries for help; Jesus is God’s answer to your sufferings. There is your God. He has not forgotten you, He has not abandoned you, He has not left you. There is your God.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.” Your God does not become fatigued; He does not become weary. He will not tire; He will not end. He is eternal, He is all powerful, and that power is directed toward your good. “Even youths shall faint and be weary; and young men shall fall exhausted.” All human powers will fail; their ability to end the suffering you deplore is only temporary, if they can relieve you at all. They cannot bring you the deliverance that you need. They cannot conquer suffering, they can only mitigate it, and even those efforts will ultimately fail. Only your God can conquer sin and suffering, and only your God has.
“To whom then shall you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” Not cancer, not heart disease, not Alzheimer’s, not Lou Gehrig’s, not tornados, not floods, not alcoholism, not depression, not death, not hell, not sin, not Satan—nothing can conquer your God, nothing is His equal, nothing is like Him. Nothing that you suffer in this world is more powerful than your God who hangs upon the tree. How do you know? Because your God, who hung upon the cross, rose again in victory on the third day. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia, Amen! Easter gives you the promise that all you suffer will end, that all you suffer will be eliminated, that sin, death, and the power of the devil are defeated and will be eliminated, that you will be vindicated. “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.” Your sufferings, no matter what they are, have been overcome, they have been defeated, your God is the crucified One, and the One who was crucified is the One who is raised, who lives nevermore to die. God has not forgotten you, God has not left you, God has not abandoned you. Your God lives—and you will live also. Your God lives—and your sufferings will end.
But not yet. Your victory has been won, but you do not yet see it. Your sufferings have been defeated, but they still cling to your flesh. God doesn’t promise you a life of ease and victory when you become a Christian; instead He calls on you to wait. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Where is God when you suffer? He is with you, beside you, even to the end of the age, strengthening you, enabling you to wait, filling you with His Word and promises. Jesus is God with you in the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death, feeding you with His Body and Blood, filling your ears with His promises, answering your cries of anguish by pointing you to His victory. There is your God. He is the crucified One, the risen One, who triumphed over your enemies for you, to give you the promise of an place where suffering will be eliminated, where death will be no more. There, for eternity, you “shall run and not be weary,” you “shall walk and not faint.” Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia, Amen! In the Name of Jesus, Amen.