While this blog is posted on a Thursday, it is (obviously) written earlier in the week. So, I am writing (trying to write) on Tuesday morning with my head full of images of collapsed buildings, death, and loss from the Syria / Turkey earthquake, the scale of which is still unfolding
The scale of devastation, the thousands who have died, is hard to comprehend. However, the pain of loss is not necessarily multiplied by scale. For each family, friend, work colleague etc., who has lost someone their sense of bereavement, their heart-rending pain, their sense of raw grief is immeasurable.
Pain, loss, trauma, grief are personal. Pain, loss, trauma, grief is relational. While we can never reduce such matters of the heart/soul/mind to a formula, there does seem to be a link between the intensity of relationship, the intensity of our bonds of love, and our sense of pain and grief when those bonds are broken, especially by death.
We, of course, pray for Syria and Turkey and for those whose eyes are red with tears and whose hearts are as shattered as the rubble-strewn buildings around them.
God of love,
God of all comfort,
With those who are heartbroken.
Bind them up.
Where they feel emptiness,
Pour your love and peace
Into their hearts.
Closer to Home.
I suspect that as we pray and as we respond in what limited practical ways we can, many of us will think of people we love whom death has taken and of painful situations close to home.
As we grieve that which is personal to us, and for the people of Turkey and Syria or the other countless examples of the brokenness of our present age, we (as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians) do not grieve as those who have no hope.
Hope does not magic the pain away or anesthetise us from pain. It does not even answer our question “why?”.
Rather, hope because it is an aspect of God’s love, sustains us in our present troubles. It aligns us with God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Life through whom all things will be made new, and so we remember that God is present with us in our darkness and brokenness and that our pain and sorrow are not permanent but are passing.
Hope is active. It produces in us a longing for the day when God will dwell with us and will wipe every tear from our eyes; Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away (Rev. 21: 3 – 4).
An Active Waiting
Hope brings this promise, this newness and life of the age to come, into our present albeit in a preliminary way. So, our waiting for the fullness of God’s comfort and healing is an active waiting, it is a participation in the work of his Spirit now. It is an active waiting in which we respond practically (just as the Good Samaritan) rather than the religious passers-by who did nothing (See Luke 10: 30 – 37).
So, as I cry out to God that he would comfort those who mourn, that he would bind the brokenhearted, I also pray:
Lord, open my eyes,
Open my eyes to see the world as you see it.
Give me the courage to act.
Fill my heart afresh with your love,
Make me an instrument of your peace,
Show me what practical acts of service,
Compassion, and care you are calling me to,
And give me the strength to obey.