When God isn’t there…

In 1873 a prominent American lawyer called Horatio Spafford sent is wife and four daughters on a steamship to England for a holiday with the plan to follow them shortly after.  Tragically the steamship sank and his four daughters, along with 222 others, died.  His wife survived. Spafford was a Christian, this event must have shook his faith in God to the core.

Spafford's four daughters

Do you ever doubt God?  Do you ever feel like God just isn’t there?  Maybe your prayers are not answered, or you feel such apathy, hurt or doubt that you cannot even bring yourself to pray.

Please be encouraged and keep going.  There are all sorts of reasons why bad things happen but it is important to remember that God is in control of all situations, no matter how grim, hopeless, or even tragic they may be.

In the Bible a prophet called Ezekiel had a vision where he saw many people who had completely turned away from God and had begun to chase after other reasons to live.  Some had begun worshiping the sun, others had started behaving in ways that hurt themselves and those around them.  Their reasoning was, “The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.”  But in the vision there was a real sense of the holy jealousy of God.  Even when God seems absent we should still give him the worship that is due to him.

Many wise and insightful people have written books exploring about how pain and suffering can be reconciled with the existence of a loving and powerful God.  It is important to engage our intellect on this issue but a great way to engage our whole being with the issue of suffering and an absent God is to actually worship God!

After receiving the news of the death of his four children Spafford came immediately to England.  It is said that it was shortly after passing the spot of the tragic accident in the Atlantic that Spafford wrote the hymn ‘Peace like a River.’  An amazing response of worship in the midst of the worst nightmare that could happen to anyone.

Everybody’s suffering is unique.  Our experience of God is unique.  What will mark us out as those who loved God is how we respond to him in those difficult times.

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5 things more unjust than Brazil vs Croatia

The neutral would have felt there was a sense of injustice against Croatia in the football last night.  I certainly did, though I do have a Balkan bias.  In fact it got me more angry than I have about much for a long time.  You know that sense of righteous anger when you know you have witnessed some huge injustice but you can’t really do anything about it?  That is what I was feeling.  I vented on facebook and twitter a bit, and waited for the likes, comments and re-tweets to help me feel justified in my anger.

And then it hit me – why do I feel so angry about a game of football when there are so many other injustices going on in the world that are infinitely more serious than a bad refereeing decision or two.

Here are my top 5 issues (with links) that I would rather not watch or read about:

  1. That the Syrian Civil War has been going for over three years
  2. That real people, including children, are trafficked for slavery and sexual exploitation
  3. That it’s likely that more than one child on my street has been abused recently
  4. That while you have been reading this blog about 6 children have died because they were hungry
  5. That this very World Cup that many of us are so excited about is the showcase event for one of the world’s most powerful, corrupt and down right evil bunch of humans – FIFA

Of course the list could go on.  They’re just headline grabbers.  Behind all of these are individual humans, suffering horrifically.

It’s just a bit overwhelming really.  What to do?

And getting angry about football….really?

The Book Thief

Running Rachael has started a great book club at work.  It’s great to be able to spend an extended lunch time with friends and colleagues* chatting about literature and life and generally relaxing in the middle of a hectic work day.

The latest offering that we have read is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It really is a good one and before I go further I would thoroughly recommend it.  It is quirky and is written and edited with such innovation that your attention is kept and you remain eager to see how events will unfold.

The setting is intriguing as it portrays life in a regular German town with regular German people but during the surreal experiences of the Second World War.  For me the fascination in this is that in Britain we are so preoccupied with our perspective of the Second World War that we don’t think about what life would have been like in Germany and the book suggests that life was pretty hellish.  It wasn’t just air raids and rationing.  Germans had to deal with a nationalistic political fervour that demanded adherance and dolled out horrific consequences for those who did not make the right choices.

Liesel, the protagonist, is a delightful character who captures your heart from the off and takes you on a childhood journey of growth, survival, loss and love.  The concept of Death as narrator is ingenious and allows for an easy fluidity from story telling to philosophising.  Although tragic from the start the tone is heart warming and generates a real confidence in the potential of humanity in the midst of the absolute worst that our species has to offer.

Out of interest, the film adaption is out in cinemas in the next month or so starring Geoffrey Rush.

*The colleagues referred to are also  friends, I’m not suggesting some are friends and some are colleagues!

A sad story

I read something really sad today about a baby that died in the night, and how the rest of the family ceased to function from that point on.  I then noticed my train had got into the station so I quickly nipped out of the door.  As I walked along the platform tears had pricked my eyes, I could feel my heart beating and my chest was a little tighter.  What I had read was so tragic and so human.

And now I was in this superficial world full of people pretending to walk purposefully down the platform, a world full of make-up and getting frustrated because someone’s standing on the left hand side of the escalator, full of over-priced coffee and snacks that we’re compelled to buy because it wouldn’t do to sit quietly without consuming something for a moment, full of ticket-barriers, tabloids, pretentious broadsheets, high heels, designer suits, full of sheep walking in the same direction.

And by now the tears had dried off and I’d forgotten what I was feeling and I’m back on my way.

Jesus is dead

Easter Saturday is often overlooked by Christians during Easter celebrations.  Good Friday is painful, sad, hopeful.  Easter Day is full of joy and celebration.   But what do you do on the Saturday?

In the story of Easter it was a day when nothing happened.  Jesus was dead, and his disciples were bereft.  I think for the Christian in the 21st century it is a day to remember that sometimes life can feel like God is absent and that prayer can seem unanswered.  The disciples felt no hope, they were not expecting the miracle and sometimes we find ourselves with similar feelings.

Feeling the absence of God is not a good place to be but it is a real feeling that I think is dangerous to shun and dismiss.  Faith in Jesus is a journey and it is important to embrace all the extremes of the journey.  I think we all feel hopeless at times – maybe because of serious illness, debt, addiction,  loneliness, purposelessness, or even death.  It is at these lowest points in life that we have to learn to grapple with pain and God – like when Jacob wrestled with God.

There will come a time when the reality of Easter morning breaks in but you can’t just be told that.  You have to experience the low, struggle with faith, and discover the goodness, mercy and love of God for yourself.  This Easter, if you’re feel down and trapped by life, it is important to know that the resurrection is just round the corner, and look forward with hope and faith – but don’t feel that if prayer seems unanswered or if God seems absent that your faith is worthless.  The disciples felt no hope after Jesus’ death yet they went on to experience the life and fullness that comes with faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

It’s not so much in the news….but please don’t forget

Some statistics (accurate up to 16th Nov 2010)

  • Number of Israeli children killed by Palestinians since September 2000  –  124
  • Number of Palestinian children killed by Israelis since September 2000  –  1,452
  • Current number of Israelis held prisoner by Palestine – 1
  • Current number of Palestinians held prisoner by Israel – 7,383
  • Number of Israeli homes demolished by Palestinians since 1967  –  0
  • Number of Palestinian homes demolished by Israel since 1967  –  24,145
  • Amount of military financial aid to Israel from America each day in 2009  –  $7,000,000
  • Amount of military financial aid to Palestine from America in 2009  –  $0
  • Number of Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land  –  239
  • Number of Palestinian settlements built on Israeli land  –  0

Source – www.ifamericansknew.org

It’s not in the news as much as it sometimes is.  Please don’t forget the Palestinian people who live in daily fear and suffering.

26 Russians or Tiger Woods’ face?

Which is more important…the lives of 26 Russians or the smoothness of Tiger Woods’ face?

Well clearly, for me, it is much more important that some advertising employee may have to spend an extra half hour airbrushing Woods’ chiseled mugshot for the next Gillette advert than the fact that loads of families have been devestated by the needless deaths of loved ones in a train crash in Russia.

I was faced with two headlines when I switched on the BBC website yesterday morning.  One read, “Dozens killed in Russian train crash’.  The other read, “Golfer Woods injured in car crash’.  Which one did I automatically click on?  Yes, the Tiger Woods one.

I think this is symptomatic of two things:

  1. We live in a celebrity obsessed culture that magnifies small incidents of the chosen few into world changing news items.
  2. We give precidence to small ‘disasters’ in English speaking countries high over and above genuine catastrophes in the non-English speaking world.

Two very silly traits.