Thursday, 25 November 2010

Heartbreak in New Zealand

After the joyful rescue of the miners in Chile it must have been all the more heartbreaking for the people of New Zealand to learn that no miners had survived the explosion in the Pike River Colliery. How can we make sense of the fact that while many people were attributing the successful Chilean rescue to the presence and power of God with those men, that same God seems to have ignored the miners in New Zealand?

It's a hard question and one that has been asked as long as there have been philosophers: why do good things and bad things happen apparently at random to both good and bad people?

In the bible Job's 'comforters' tried to explain the bad things that happened to him as a result of his unconfessed sin. But that answer didn't work. In the end Job had to simply accept that we don't know the reason why bad things sometimes happen to good people. At the same time he learned to trust that God might know more than he did.

A tragedy like the one in New Zealand is another example of what the apostle Paul talked about when he described 'creation groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time'. There is a sense in which these unexplained things cause us and the whole of creation to groan, in the expectation that a better day is coming - and it can't be soon enough.

Theologians use the expression 'now and not yet' to describe the coming of God's kingdom. In one sense it is here already with the coming of Jesus, but in another sense it is not here in its fulness. Now we live in an inbetween time in which we see glimpses of that kingdom: sometimes people are healed in response to prayer, or rescued, or converted. But at other times they are not. We simply have to learn to live with that tension.

In the meantime we can pray for the relatives and friends of those miners, that in some way they will know the consoling presence of God.

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