August 9, 2020; 1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
We are people of faith. Therefore, when we find ourselves in crisis, we expect that God will help us. In times of trial, we wait for God’s presence. Yet many of us here realize there are times when we are in need and God seems to be missing. We end up waiting for a God who does not come.
Now this could be when we lose someone that we love dearly—the sudden death of a spouse, an end to a serious dating relationship. We find ourselves walking around with a deep emptiness, with a hole in our heart that nothing can fill. We wonder, “Where is God? I need God’s consolation.” It can happen to you if you receive a serious medical diagnosis, and suddenly your future changes. You say, “I need to be brave. I can get through this.” But fear interrupts every second thought, and you ask, “Where is God? I need to know that God has not forgotten me.” All of us are becoming discouraged by the coronavirus. We are tired of being isolated and separated from the people we love. We say, “This has to end. It can’t go on forever!” But then as one month moves into the next, we lose energy and hope. We wonder, “Where is God? I am losing my energy and my hope. I need God to lift my spirits.”
When we find ourselves in any of these circumstances, today’s first reading can be of help. In that reading the prophet, Elijah, is in crisis. God promises to come to him. So, Elijah goes up to the mountain to wait for God. There he experiences heavy winds, earthquakes, and fire. But God is not in any of those things. Then he hears a tiny whispering sound, and he knows that God is with him. What this reading tells us is that sometimes when we feel that we have been abandoned by God, we are not looking in the right places. God might not be present in the big issues that rock our lives. God might be found in the small sounds and actions that surround us.
If your life is broken because of a lost relationship, God might not be found in the emptiness that accompanies you. Then it is time to wait for the day when you catch a positive memory of the person who you lost, a great day together or an awkward moment which made both of you laugh. When you find yourself laughing in that memory, God is there. You might feel abandoned as you face a serious sickness, but God might not be found in the pain, the treatments, or the fear. Then you should wait for the day when a card arrives in the mail from someone you don’t know all that well. It simply says, “Thinking of you.” You are surprised, because you never imagined that person cared as much. And in that surprise God is present. As we face this coronavirus, God might not be found in the isolation or the social distancing. But then one day you are at the supermarket and the cashier says, “I love your mask!” You realize that you are wearing a mask with kittens on it that was made by your 12-year-old granddaughter. You are filled with thankfulness that she is in your life. And in that thankfulness, God is with you.
Now, of course, we do need to continue to trust and believe that God will help us in the big things of life. But it does us no good to ignore the little ways that God is present to us. Often we cannot find God in a miraculous cure, an earthquake, or fire. It is then that we should look for God in a moment of laughter, a wink from a stranger, or a tiny whispering sound. Because when we find God there, we will also find courage and hope.