I have been struck afresh this summer and moving into September about the extraordinary contrasting experiences that are part of ordinary life. The current news is full of dangerous and worrying situations, such as North Korea which is pursuing its own path to nuclear capability, despite the efforts of its neighbours and the rest of the world. Understandably, threats of violence against it only increases their determination to have an effective military response. It is a very dangerous path to be on. Also, indiscriminate attacks with cars and knives remind us that a few determined individuals can cause extraordinary suffering.
Then we have experiences of great beauty. I was sailing with my sister and family and in one day two pods of dolphins came to play. We saw them leaping gracefully out of the water at a distance, they saw us and sped to join us. For quite a few minutes they played around the boat, sometimes swimming on their sides to look at us. It was a wonderful uplifting experience. The birth of a new child reminds us of the miracle of life and the power and exhilaration of human love.
This is the world in which we live and seek to find meaning and purpose. We can rightly ask the question where is God in all this. It is easy in the beauty but what about the suffering.
The Christian faith is centred around the mystery of pain and suffering. Jesus, like us, would have preferred an easier way. The temptations in the wilderness were real for him. At the end in Gethsemane he was wondering if there was another way; but there was not. So at the centre of the Christian story, the truth and mystery about God’s love is shown through suffering and death but finally in the resurrection. While we all sensibly want to avoid suffering, there is something powerful about discovering the depth and power of God’s love in the midst of difficulties. We experience strength we did not expect and the love and sacrifice of good friends that would be impossible in easier times. We had this verse on Sunday: Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times (Romans 12 v 12).
Rev Bill Henderson