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/ 4 July 2017

Justin Bieber, God and being in the midst

Justin Bieber in concert

“God is good in the midst of the darkness. No matter what is happening, God is there in the midst.”

This phrase and various versions of it span around the Twittersphere from a wide (well, as wide as one’s Twitter gets) range of people – church leaders, youth workers, minor Christian celebrities. I have been thinking about this for the last few weeks in context of the times that we are currently living in and all the horror, shock, despair and uncertainty (and all the other realities/feelings).

While this message of ‘God with Us’ is encouraging (and the original, impassioned call was seen by more than all the combined efforts of retweets on Twitter – on my timeline anyway), there is something about this that makes me shuffle slightly uncomfortably. I’m not talking about my discomfort with Bieber’s life and his Christian message (again taking all this stuff with a pinch of salt – who can trust the media anyway?). Rather, while the sentiment of the message is clear and well intentioned, I’m just not sure it’s that simple.

The older I get, the longer I walk the tricky path of faith that God is with me, even in the midst of me in difficult times. And I believe this, but how I believe God is with me in the darkness is at times as complex as the shades of dark and light I experience. Thankfully we have the Psalms (actually the whole Bible) to explore this issue in (and I realise I’m not the only one!)

My discomfort comes from the way in which it is easy to jump on that Tweet and say, yes that’s it, don’t worry, God is with us, it’s OK… and then retweet it as if it would inspire hope. Rather, the long haul of walking with people as they face the darkness, when they can’t see God, is often long and sad and complex. My experience is that we build others up in faith not through shouting at them that God is there (queue giant sponge pointing finger) but in quietness and trust (Isaiah 30:15) holding a hand, being present for the long haul.

Yes, I think it is better that Bieber said something about God being with us than saying nothing at all! But I just think there is so much more, and I want to say, ‘Yes God is in the midst, but if you don’t see him or feel him then you are not strange or wrong, just keep going, God is not afraid of suffering and perhaps one day we won’t be either, I’m here for you, for the long haul.’

Bieber’s impassioned plea then is a starting place, a place to begin conversation and help young people to explore the mysteries of God. Young people in all their transitions – physical, emotional, spiritual – benefit from the adults who accompany them in the mystery, ready to answer questions or sit with the mystery, just listening to them.

Photo credit: NRK P3 Justin Bieber – Telenor Arena via photopin (license).


About James Fawcett

James Fawcett is part of CONCRETE and works with the Diocese of London, helping parishes with our youth work.

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