I am writing this article in mid-January. The beautiful blue sky and gentle breeze I can see from my window belies what most of us have experienced over the past month or more. Parched earth, landscapes, homes and businesses ravaged by fire, choking smoke haze and most recently thunder and hail storms. And lives lost as a consequence.
I’m conscious that readers of this reflection come from a broad range of religious belief, and none. Many of you have subscribed to Faith Journey because you are on a search for something spiritual; something that will provide meaning in your life, which might, or might not, include God, Jesus or the Catholic faith. Some of you are baptised Catholics, who might just be hanging in there or have decided to take a break from attending Mass.
For this reason, I thought I would broach the topic of God’s role in these tragic events. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “where is God in the midst of this?” are perennial questions. They are questions I ask too. And I certainly pondered these questions in early January as I stared at what was left of my brother’s home and business. Our family had lived on this site for nearly 50 years. Now all that was left was the memories. As I looked down the road of this rural village, I wondered if other people were asking why God would allow this to happen.
I know there are people who are a lot smarter than I am, who could provide a strong theological explanation for why things happen in this world – good or bad. But allow me to try and explain how I fathom this myself.
Firstly, I ask an opposing question: why does God allow beautiful things to happen? And then, I sort of accept that it is a mystery. I accept that not everything goes according to my plan, but to God’s much larger plan. I accept I cannot comprehend why certain things take place. But, I’ve come to trust God has it under control, and that my tiny focused view of life (while very important to me) does not compare to God’s infinitely greater role in the circle of life.
So, when I reflect on the personal circumstances of my own family during the bushfires, I see God’s actions over and over. I saw it in the sacrifice of my brother’s mate who literally pulled him from the burning house, begging him to get out. I saw it in the generosity of a family who have given over their holiday home so that my brother has somewhere safe to stay. Then there are the donations of food, the bags of clothes, the volunteer labour to help with the clean-up of rubble and dead cattle. The list goes on. Surely these people are the face of Christ?
But, you could say that the people providing all this generosity might not have a religious bone in their body! And, that might be true to a point. However, I believe that the Christian message of love of neighbour still runs strong, even in our secular culture. There still seems to be, somewhere deep in our psyche, an inherent belief in the dignity of life.
Our Catholic faith professes this in its words and actions. As members of the Catholic faith, we sometimes live out this value very well. At other times, we fail.
I would suggest, that as we see and experience the outpouring of generosity at this time in Australia, we are living out this Christ-like value very well indeed.
Praying is not an activity exclusive to those who are members of a Church, nor is it an academic endeavour. Prayer may lead you to both of these things, but prayer is first and foremost a relationship with God. If you found the previous reflection thought-provoking, you might like to pray, or ponder, the following:
Sometimes I do not understand why things
happen the way they do. How can:
little babies die,
young people get sick,
storms, floods and droughts take countless lives?
And yet I see:
the miracle of birth,
the splendid beauty of creation,
kind, loving and generous people throughout
Why, God, do you let these good and bad
things happen in life?
Help me to understand your plans
are not always my plans.
Help me to trust you have it under control.
Lord, I thank you for all the good things that happen
in my life.
And, I ask for your help to understand and deal
with those things that don’t go according
to my plan.
Lord, in you I trust.
If you have recently subscribed to Faith Journey, we would like to offer you a copy of Discovering Prayer: A 30 day prayer journey of encountering God, and love. Please email us your name and postal details and we will post you a free copy. This offer applies for the month of February 2020.
Wishing you every blessing on your faith journey
Malcolm and Sharon
Story: S Brewer
Images: S Brewer & Ben White (Unsplash)
This article is part of Faith Journey, a newsletter from the National Centre for Evangelisation.