I thought I might write a cheery reflection on my Christmas which has, it has to be said, been a prety good one. But somehow that doesn’t seem quite appropriate, with the news that the deathtoll from the earthquake is now known to be well over 20 000. How do you make any sense of such a tragedy?
It is certainly a reminder that though human beings are undoubtedly having an impact on the world’s environment, when nature herself releases her fury no power in human hands can stand against her. In insurance terms these events are called “Acts of God”, and some would conclude that the judgement of God can indeed be seen at work when the world is shaken. Some appear to take delight in seeing the hammer fall. Others will draw the conclusion that events like this prove that faith is vain, that God - if he exists at all - cannot be trusted.
I too recoil from a God whose aim is so poor that violence is poured out so capriciously. But I recall too from the prospect that these terrible events are merely the outworking of natural forces that ultimately have no meaning. Life against such a background would be futile and without ultimate purpose.
The only way I can reconcile these two is to see the dreadful and terrifying unleashing of the earth’s power in storm and earthquake as part of what St Paul described as the creation’s groaning as it waits to be released from death and decay, a creation that will be made perfect in Jesus Christ. In the meantime, the call which God makes on his people is to respond to those in need with compassion and generosity, to turn away from despair and embrace the hurting and broken of the world.
Pious pipedreams? Maybe.
But I’d swap that for futility and hopelessness anytime.