Where was God?
Lysa TerKeurst

"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'" Acts 7:55-56 (NIV)

Sometimes things happen in life that are so horrible our minds have a hard time processing them. Even our souls don't know quite where to place the horrific. So, we pull out our trite Christian answers and hope they are good enough to keep the honest questions at bay.

But somewhere deep inside us a question bumps around our heart. A question so honest we Christians feel we couldn't ever possibly ask it. Where was God?

Where was God when the students were shot?

Where was God when my sister's 18 year-old friend had a headache one day and died suddenly the next?

Where was God when my friend's baby wrapped the umbilical cord about his leg and he died days before he would have otherwise been delivered perfectly healthy?

Where was God when that precious girl was taken, and found a few days later in the trash dump?

Like I said, things so hard we can hardly process them. Sometimes we'd rather make an excuse for God than be brave enough to actually go to God and ask. I've been guilty of this. I've tried to make excuses for God. And I hated the feeling of faking my way through with plastic answers just to gloss over something my God is certainly big enough to answer Himself.

For years, I asked God to help me wrestle with this hard question. And finally an answer came tucked away in Acts 7:54-60, the stoning of Stephen.

It's easy to read the words of the story and miss the reality of what's really happening. Stephen is being brutally murdered. Stephen is living the horrific we can't process. Yet, in the midst of his most desperate moment, Stephen is absolutely not alone.

While I hate - absolutely hate - what is being done to Stephen's body, his soul is experiencing something completely separate. And what I discovered when I dared peak inside the horrific was a miracle that makes me weep with relief.

God was there. Jesus was there. And my Jesus wasn't just sitting by observing. No, He was standing. And please forgive me for daring to make an assumption here but because I know Jesus, I have a picture in my mind of what He must have looked like in this moment. With tears streaming down His face, full of the purest compassion ever known, Jesus makes sure Stephen sees Him. Locks His eyes on his.

And from what I can tell, Stephen never took his eyes off of Jesus.

In the midst of chaos and screaming and the most vicious of acts, Stephen's soul talks with Jesus. His body falls as Stephen cries out forgiveness for all who dare to hear. And with that, a merciful sleep takes Stephen away.

I know this is hard to process.

I know just reading these passages doesn't answer every question.

And might I encourage you to wrestle with this and pray about this and ask God the bold questions that knock around your soul? I'll be posting a little more on this topic on my blog today and I'd love to process this with you further. But, let me assure you I won't be offering cookie cutter answers. These are hard questions with no easy answers.

I don't understand why Stephen had to die this way.

I am still horrified by all of the events I listed above.

And while I don't have all the answers, there is one thing I know for certain. I do know where God was. He wasn't too busy. He wasn't cold and heartless. He wasn't caught off guard.

He was there. And I'm convinced with holy tears dripping in the midst, He is grieved over how sin has broken this world. And He walks to the edge of eternity and reminds us He will avenge, He will redeem, He will make all things right.

Especially those we can't possibly understand right now.

Dear Lord, it is so hard to understand the horrific events that happen. Thank You for this reminder in Stephen's story. Even though we may never have answers on this side of eternity we can still stand on the truth that You are good even when life isn't. But Lord Jesus, please pour out Your loving comfort and reassurances. Our hearts need Your touch in those deep hurting places. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s blog for more on this tough topic

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst. Lysa wrote a chapter in this book called “Deep Grief” which equips women to process the harder issues in life for themselves and to better understand how to help a friend through tough times as well.

And, releasing this month is Lysa’s 6 week DVD teaching series that is perfect for personal or group studies. Each session is 15- 20 minutes in length. Participant’s guides are also available. You can order yours today by clicking here.

Application Steps:
Read a couple of chapters in Psalms today and ask God to tenderly speak through His Word. Write down each description of God. Then pray a prayer inserting your name and what God promises to be for you personally.

Is there a person in your sphere of influence who has been wrestling with some tough questions?

Why not forward this devotion to them and take time to talk and pray about it together?

Power Verses:
John 11:32-33, "When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled." (NIV)

John 11:35, "Jesus wept." (NIV)

© 2009 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

We definatly don't have a God who stands aloof to the suffering on this planet. He came down and walked among us experianced the blood the sweat and the tears and has the scars on His hands feet and side needed to end the horrific for all time.

Anonymous Kate said...

This morning I have asked God about some quetions which touches the deep recesses of my very soul.I have over the years but no answers and I ask God why so I am so glad He has answered me so quickly with this devotional.I thank you Daddy and I you for such a beautiful devotional.A burden has been lifted.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful vision. We try so hard to "fix our eyes on Jesus", especially in times of trouble, but I never thought of Him fixing His eyes on me -- all the time, and especially when I need Him most. Thank you!

I can just imagine Stephen locking His eyes on Jesus as his old body crumbled away and he was renewed in Spirit and taken up to be with his Heavenly Father and Jesus for eternity. What joy, what peace.

Praise God that we have such a pesonal and loving Father!

Blogger Unknown said...


This morning devotion touch my heart. I've have a best friend that was going through last night. She is really struggling and angry with God. She had some female problems that hinder her of becoming pregnant. She so want a baby and going thru the experiences of pregnancy. She had surgery not even a year ago to remove fibroid tumors. She have always went through tremendous female problems all of her adult life. So she was starting to have more problems and went to the Doctor yesterday. They found more fibroids. She was told by God to not have a hysterectomy, but the Doctor wanted to do that instead of just removing the fibroids. So she ask where is God at especially when doing the right things in life. I pray really hard last night for God to have his perfect will over me to listen and say the right things. I woke up this morning with heaviness on my heart, and weeping like a baby last night and this morning. God have show me several times in dream about her baby. So I ask this morning "Where was God?" Please help!!!!

Anonymous Mommy Melback said...

Thank you so much for todays devotion.
I have found myself in difficult and horrific situations and thought where was God and how could "He" let this happen or heard others say this. This has brought clarity to me. He is there and we won't always know.

Anonymous Lorraine Furtner said...

Thank you so much. How timely. I had been asking this same question regarding the grisly Newsom / Christian murders that took place here where I live. The trials are going on now, and I know the parents were Christians and see how they are suffering. I have imagined myself in their place and prayed for them. I cannot imagine how horrible it must be for them. I had just finished reading and praying about it today, when I read this devotion. I will pass this along to someone who might know the parents.

Anonymous Ramona said...

Thank you sooo much for sharing these with me today. It's like I really needed to hear this story. So many times I find myself asking & questioning (WHY GOD), but now I hope I don't ever again. From now on, I'll start saying,"Lord" give me strength to go through what faces me. Thank you again.

Anonymous Lori said...

Thank you for this picture you have used to depict this scene to me. What a testimony of God's love and mercy and compassion. I have several friends that are going through very hard times and this is very inspirational to me and I have a feeling it will be to them, too!! He is bigger than all else...everything!! What a comfort to know that he has planned each event that is happening and for a reason!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Armena - I can understand your how your friend feels. I went through over 6 years of infertility treatments before my husband and I could realize we could not have our own children. Sure, I wanted to experience pregnancy and delivery. It hurt more than anyone knew. I went through the same thing...Why God? Where are you God?
God has the perfect plan for your friend. It may not feel like it when you are in the middle of it, but I know He is working His plan. My husband and I were given identical twin daughters who were almost 4 months old on May 18, 1996. Our adoption was not an easy one, but worth all we went through. As a women, I would never change how God prepared me to be a mother. A few years ago, I found out why I never got pregnant. Never would I change what God has given me.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I call what you are talking about grace for the moment. I remember reading a story about this muslum couple and their children. Well she did the forbidden she gave her life to the Lord, her husband was enraged he killed her burrying her and threw the children in with her ALIVE. for something like a week they where in there well the father was caught, and they where found the kids perfectly OK! The children reported an angel going to them daily feeding them and comforting them. That was a relif for me! I do not care about myself but my babies! I have two nine month old girls and a three year old boy, i would give my life for them but i would not want them to give their lives for me. What i am trying to say is you are right you never know what God is on when those horrific things are happening to children especially, but that is when trusting God comes in, it is a MUST!

Anonymous Debbie said...

What a BLESSED HOPE we have. Oh to keep our eyes on Jesus - and to see him STANDING at the right hand of God. Just like the shepherd, seeking us out in the midst of our pain and terror.

What a beautiful illustration of the Sovereignty of our GOD!

Blogger Julie said...

You inspire me!
Thank you for sharing, Lysa!

By the way, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your new book!!!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear God,
Help me to remember that you are near even when it seems you are standing idly by in the eyes of a human like me. Help me to see the loving father that you are. to know that I can come to you with my questions. Help my faith to grow despite my inability to understand all that this world brings with it. I trust you.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know there is controversy over the book The Shack, but I would highly recommend it for anyone questioning God in one of those horrific situations. The author does a great job of trying to give us God's perspective on such things.

Anonymous Gina said...

Lysa, Your article has brought comfort to my soul. My younger brother died tragically just a few days ago. I know his passing wasn't a surprise to our Lord and don't doubt my brother "..is present with the Lord." However, I mourn deeply as I learned the details of his last moments of life and determine I'll never really know, this side of heaven, what chain of events lead to his death. I have recalled the scriptures about Lazarus' death and how Jesus wept, for comfort to my hurting heart. This perspective I didn't grasp though and I thank you for sharing.

Anonymous Laura Ellington said...

Thank you for sharing this. My father committed suicide 6 years ago and I never talked to God about it. I just accepted that he wasn't to blame. So today, I asked God, where was he, among a few other questions, and tears started streaming down my face. This made me realize; maybe I'm still unsettled about what happened. But I will continue talking to God about it until I find peace. I'm confident God will talk back.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I studied this passage once and was told that Jesus stood up and was welcoming Stephen in to his kingdom as if Stephen was in an Olympics Race and Jesus was telling him "come on in, You can do it! This provided deep comfort for me that Jesus is standing telling us....Come on, come on, come on. He is our Support throught it all!

Blogger Eagles Wings said...

Thanks so much for this devotion...
My son's preschool - has a teacher who's daughter was in a coma and pregnant when her husband found her on their living room floor. So many questions and no answers...
So I shared this devotion with one of the teachers and the headmaster is going to read it on Friday in the teachers devotions before school. Just thought I would let you know ..what a blessing you are!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.


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