The Wounded, Wounding God

One of my life-albums is “The Lover and the Beloved”, by John Michael Talbot. In this album, JMT takes devotional writings from some of the great spiritual writers of church history, adapts them to song, and then sings them, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar.

So…a little bit different than what the Music-Industrial Complex, in both its secular and Christian arms, offers up to us.

My favorite song is adopted from the writings of Saint John of The Cross (the Mystical Doctor, according to Rome). The song is called, Where Have You Hidden? It is the plaintive cry of someone longing to find God’s joy and presence…but finding only longing and hurt. Or rather, the hurt of longing.

Here, give it a slow listen:

Note, if you cannot get the song to play, try this link

Lyrics:

Where have you hidden, beloved?
Why have you wounded my soul?
I went out to the wilderness
Calling for you
But you were gone

Oh shepherds keeping your watch in the hills
If by chance you meet with my love
Tell him I suffer in my lonely grief
And soon I will die

(Repeat Chorus)

I have searched for my love in the mountains
I have searched among the meadows and the fields
He has poured out a thousand graces in them
So my heart might be healed
Yet my heart is not healed

(Repeat Chorus)

What poignant questions to ask of God: Where have you hidden? Why have you wounded my soul?

St. John was a Saint and a mystic and one of the greatest writers of devotional literature in history. It gives me comfort to know that even a man like that felt more longing than fulfillment, more the hiddeness of God than His felt presence.

This song resonates with me because it reflects my own experience of God: longing for Him, but not finding Him. Finding pleasure in the things He has created (a thousand graces), but not healing. My hear is not healed. And I don’t want to pretend it is.

I feel wounded by God’s absence. Sometimes the pain is akin to Job’s sharp anguish against the injustice and unfairness of it all.  Where is God in all this? Why won’t He fix it, or fix me, or at least…at least answer me? More often, though, my woundedness is the dull ache of missing the One whom I believe in, but have never met. I see hints of His beauty in the autumn maple; I feel an echo of His love in the arms of my wife. I even taste a bit of his goodness in the hot cider I nurse while writing this.

But not Him.

Yes, He has truly filled this life with a thousand graces, and I long to more and more receive all the good things of this life as a grace, a gift of God and a faint-faith echo of God.

But the more I do…the more I want Him.

My theology tells me that God, too, is wounded. Not only in His love for me also being unfulfilled now, but in the price He paid to show that love, and bring me to that love. I know; Yes, He is wounded, too.  And my theology also assures me that, as C.S. Lewis said, “We will never be able to see God face-to-face until we have faces”. I get it. I understand. I can no more be with God right now than I can stand on the sun.

But doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

30 thoughts on “The Wounded, Wounding God

  1. Sometimes it helps to let your rage at Him out. Let him know how pissed you are that He’s being such an arse. Lo and behold you find out that He’s bigger than our anger and he hasn’t inflicted us with boils and wiped out our flocks because we got into some intense honesty. I don’t know if this fits your situation or not, I just know that it was a bit of a milestone for me when I could no longer live with the vindictive, angry God that was looking to curse me for the smallest infraction. This is a lifetime’s work of course but if the shoe fits here sometimes clearing the air is a good start. If this doesn’t apply, never mind!

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  2. Thanks everyone, it’s just hard sometimes.

    I’ve traced back when my fears about God’s character started & it was really in reading a very hard core Reformed book at a very vulnerable time. I’ve tried to shake this off for years, but have never managed to completely do this.

    Please pray this could be the time when these old wounds are healed & I’m set free from them into something much better. I get so fed up with myself on top of everything else.

    Hanging in there.

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  3. So sorry you’re feeling this uncertain, BeakerN. I pray God and Jesus bless you with a divine sense of their presence. And if that fails to happen, just keep the faith that they ARE there with you; it’s just that this is a broken world and the divisive spirit of the enemy is super-effective these days at making us all feel some separation from the One who loves us.

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  4. holy baptism, a dying to self,
    “Your torrents and waves have washed over us. . . “

    and then,

    “He reached from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters.” (Psalm 18)

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  5. The idea that specifically the fact that Christ suffered horribly in dying is what redeems us is a relatively new one in church terms, stemming as it does principally from the Reformation. As you say, its weakness is that, while crucifixion was designed by the Romans to be a particularly brutal way to die, we humans are endlessly inventive and it is not qualitatively more horrible than many others.
    If one moves away from the (I think rather horrible) notion that Christ’s suffering is a sort of quid pro quo so that God gets to at least torture someone and is prepared to let us off if he gets to torture Jesus instead, and move towards the older idea that it is Jesus’s dying and, crucially, descending to the dead that is the important thing, there is no need for there to be anything particularly different about Jesus’s death for it to heal us – precisely the opposite in fact. Jesus does in exactly the same way that we all do. The difference is that he is also God. By dying himself, just like us, God as Jesus can enter into death with us, and be with us in it, and so reach us there and bring us out. When Jesus rose from the dead, we rose with him, and death was destroyed.

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  6. –> “I feel wounded by God’s absence…. Where is God in all this? Why won’t He fix it, or fix me, or at least…at least answer me?”

    –> “My theology tells me that God, too, is wounded.”

    Amen, brother. This is partly why I think Jesus recited the first line of Psalm 22 (and not some other Psalm, like #23) while dying on the cross. David–representing humanity–felt forsaken. Jesus–representing God–tell us, “I understand this feeling well.”

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  7. Thanks, Daniel.

    Like Michael Z, I think the sense of absence is very much connected to the Presence. It does hurt when we can’t feel it; maybe that also has something to do with the expectation that we’re supposed to feel good all the time that is baked into our wealthy, consumerist culture. At the same time, there is most definitely a longing for the Beautiful in every soul.

    JMT was also a great comfort to me in the wilderness, and I still fall asleep to some of his instrumental albums from time to time.

    Dana

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  8. less is more – humility before God asks of us to not take things for ‘granted’, but to see the wonder in them, that they exist at all, and that we are able to notice at all

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  9. Call us oh Christ, and open up the gate
    Call us to worship, with your mighty Voice:

    The Voice that sings through rivers in full spate

    The Voice in which the forests all rejoice

    The Voice that rolls through thunderclouds, and calls

    The deep seas and steep waves, the quiet Voice

    That stirs our sleeping conscience and recalls
    Us to the love we had abandoned, leads
    Us through the parting mists of doubt, or falls

    Upon us like a revelation, pleads
    With us upon the poor’s behalf, blazes
    In glory from each burning bush, and bleeds
    Out from compassion’s wounds, raises
    Our spirits till we dance for joy

    And gives us too, a voice to sing His praises.”

    (Malcolm Guite, Anglican priest)

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  10. grief is a form of love for someone who has passed, and grief is a very deep wounding to bear

    but we are offered ‘shelter’ in Christ in our pain which gives the ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’
    and we grieve, yes, but in the knowledge that we are being cared for and that God has come near and we are not ‘alone’ in our grief – that title ‘the Comforter’ has a real meaning

    ““And I saw the river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of heaven

    and the name of that river was suffering:

    and I saw a boat which carries souls across the river

    and the name of that boat was Love.”

    (St. John of the Cross)

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  11. Our Father, lead your child not into temptation but deliver this one into green pastures, beside still waters. Hold us in your bosom Lord and gather us under your wing.

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  12. I think we often convince ourselves that that sort of wounded feeling, emptiness, and longing for God is the *opposite* of God’s presence, but I’m not sure that’s the case. There’s some sense, especially in retrospect, where those moments of yearning for God can turn out to be as intense an experience of God’s reality and presence than any “mountaintop” experience.

    The real lows of the spiritual life are not those moments when we’re actively calling out to God, but the moments – whether our lives are collapsing around us, or whether everything seems fine – when we forget God completely or allow ourselves to get caught up in some cheap substitute for God. So I worry much less about the spiritual health of the person who feels “wounded” than about the person who is completely free of doubt or desire for more of God.

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  13. We are carried along by grace, not our necessarily imperfect understanding of atonement or theology in general. The crazier things get in our world today, the less I look to theology for consolation. John of the Cross was arguably the greatest mystic of the Western Church, but he is inarguably one of the greatest religious poets of the world. All his mystical treatises took the form of line by line explications of his original poems, some of them written under the most horrific conditions of imprisonment by his religious adversaries and the ecclesiastical authorities (they were also ostensibly Christian). Look to his poems, look to the poetry — you will find unadulterated grace there, grace in pure form purer than the poets themselves, most of whom were just as lost as the rest of us.

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  14. I am just not sure of ‘by His wounds we are healed’

    By my church teachings I know of the meaning of Jesus death but then I see so many horrific and worse, much worse deaths, violence and I can’t equate the Jesus death and such awful cries offered up to God in the past and the present. Those lives spent in persecution without hope. Asking for Divine deliverance.
    Why was Jesus death so special in relation to other significant dreadful deaths spent in opposing terrible regimes and persecution. I know the pat answer but I lose the plot and ask why was His death so special when those who we are told are created in God’s image die for so many causes. So many lives lost hoping for justice,
    The balance eludes me.
    Here I loose faith.

    Susan

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  15. Thanks Mike. I added a link.

    And yes, I love those two, although the cd I listen to the most is Troubadour of the Great King.

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  16. Video not available for me to see. Anyone else (it may be because I am in Canada).

    My two favourite albums of his are The Painter, and Brother to Brother with Michael Card.

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