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.

Tolstoy’s Resurrection Part 2: Turning a Blind Eye to Suffering

The work done by Comic Relief is brilliant.  For one night only it manages to turn the apathetic and uncaring British public into compassion filled givers of cash.  Yet I think we would agree that the good will generated through Comic Relief is a bit of an annual one off for some, and certainly the zenith of the year’s compassion levels for the rest.

Even the heart-wrenching videos of a boy band crying in an African hospital struggle to provoke more than a skin deep reaction in us – we are genuinely moved, we give a little, yet we continue to live our lives in a manner that sustains and exacerbates the horrific levels of poverty just a few hours plane ride away.

In Resurrection, Tolstoy dismantles the ethics of middle and upper class Russian society about 120 years ago.  The reader is introduced to character after character who do absolutely nothing to challenge the culture that celebrated in the economic and sociological structures that kept the rich rich yet produced millions of deaths through disease and starvation.  Even those who saw the pain, and were even moved by it, could bring themselves to do nothing to change.

My prayer for myself is that I would have open eyes and an open heart to the pain and struggle around me and that I would act on the emotional feelings I experience and actually act in compassion, instead of continuing to turn a blind eye, just to keep myself feeling better.

Do you want to do the same?  If so then right now STOP, and pray for God to transform your heart.

Crick in the neck

I am over 24 hours into the worst crick of my life.  I was afflicted with it during yesterday’s morning run.  I was very patient yesterday but waking up with the same restrictions is really annoying me.  I feel like a thunderbird puppet who got his head string tangled up in the looking down position.

It inhibits me from doing all sorts of pleasurable things:

Writing blogs/watching Match of the Day/cuddling my wife/driving/10-pin bowling/watching fireworks/eating/kissing Anya while she’s asleep/partaking in conversations/sleeping

Hope it goes soon 😦

The Libya-Lockerbie thing: Part 1

Here’s my twopenneth about what has gone on this week with the Libyan fella convicted of murdering over 200 people in the Lockerbie plane disaster in 1988 and who has been freed on compassionate grounds, suffering from terminal cancer.

First of all I found the words of the Scottish First Minister the other day to be incredible.  It so rare these days that we hear people talk of unconditional mercy and compassion for somebody who doesn’t deserve it.  It was fascinating to listen to a politician talk of this and it felt very powerful.  It challenged me about our approach to justice in this country and reminded me that we are so caught up with what is ‘right’ and what is ‘fair’ that we so often miss the opportunity for forgiveness and reconciliation.

As I listened to some of the bereaved American relatives I realised they are far from forgiveness and even further from finding peace for themselves.  This is tragic and sad.  They now have the Scottish government to direct their hate too as well as Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi and they are even further away from finding peace in their own lives.  I don’t want to pretend that it is easy to forgive, I just want to say that the few relatives I have heard speak of forgiveness, and agree the guy should be freed, are in a much happier place than the bitter relatives.

This blog post is too long so I’ll leave my second point till tomorrow…

Murderer on Songs of Praise

Shock horror – a murderer has appeared on Songs of Praise!  How can this be? 

Let’s put this in perspective.  Songs of Praise is a Christian television program.  So they interviewed a very interesting man who had committed murder but then found faith in God and repented of all his wrong doings, turning his life around.  Why the uproar?  Why is this newspaper article so incredibly disgusted that this should be allowed to happen?

I will tell you why.

It is because the love of God is scandalous.  He loves us so much that, if we have faith in him and are repentent, he will forgive ANYTHING we do. That is great news for you and me.  EVERYTHING you have ever done can be forgiven.  You can be free from pain, guilt, shame, worthlessness…

It is also good news for those who have done things abominable in the eyes of others.  Those ‘sins’ that are unforgivable if you are the victim…

It is good news for the murderer, the drug dealer, the father who left his family, the drink driver, the rapist, the corrupt politician, the slanderous journalist, the evil dictator and even the most hated creature in today’s society – the paedophile.  God loves paedophiles.  What a scandal.

Cycle of Bullying

I saw two lads today in school uniform.  One about 12, the other about 14.  The elder, bigger boy was ragging the other about by his scruffy greasy hair.  I was about 40 metres away when the elder pushed the younger away from him and shouted something at him.  The ruffled youngster walked past me scowling and rubbing his head vigourously, obviously in pain.

The lad who had been doing the bullying was now stood by the railings outside my office.  I went up to him:

“Excuse me, what were you just doing to that lad?”

“He’s me brother.”

“Your brother?  Does that make it alright to hurt him like that?”  I received a mumbled response so I continued, “It doesn’t matter what he has done, it’s not right to hurt someone like that.  How would you feel if someone bigger than you pushed you around and hurt you just because they were bigger and stronger?  Just put yourself in his shoes.  It wouldn’t be nice would it?”

“No.”

“Just think about it in future, ok?”

I walked away.  By the time I got into the office I was thinking, “Nathan, you melon.  What a stupid line, ‘How would you feel?’  I bet he knows how it feels cus his dad, or step-dad, or big brother does it to him.”  I felt totally helpless and appalled at what situation these two lads could be living in.  I just wanted to run after the older one, invite him in for a hot chocolate and solve all his problems for him.  I looked outside the window, he was gone.

Broken People

We are all broken people.

Some are more broken than others.  Some can go about and pretend they are not broken but in the secret times they really have to show to themselves that they are broken and this makes them feel very lonely.  Some people even pretend to themselves that they are not broken.

Some people show other people that they are broken.  Sometimes this is by accident but they just can’t help it.  Like one girl today at work she just cried and cried and cried for an hour in the corridor because she was broken.  It was good that some people tried to fix her.  But they were broken too and fixing her must have put a strain on the broken bits in them.  I hope they don’t get more broken and have to show themselves that how much the broken bits hurt when they’re on their own tonight.

There is one person who is not broken.  And He can fix us when we are broken and it hurts Him but it doesn’t break him.  It is confusing that even after He helps is we’re still a bit broken but I know one day He will collect all of us broken people and fix us properly so that we will never break again.  That is as long as we don’t pretend we’re not broken and that we don’t need Him to fix us.