What sad news from Barcelona. It shouldn’t feel familiar, a vehicle ploughing into pedestrians, but it’s starting to. We’re all immediately wondering why, thinking about all those who’ve been affected and whether we’re somehow next.
I recall a vivid moment after the Sri Lankan tsunami of 2004. We were gathered in church, shocked; trying to understand. We were hoping the minister might tell us why. The preacher that day was Canon John Sweet, and I remember exactly what he said. He talked about the Book of Job. In it, one of God’s most faithful servants suffers such dreadful experiences that it seems as though God is punishing him, entirely unjustly. Obviously, Job’s not impressed. He takes quite a long time to tell God off about it. In summary, he says:
“Does he not see my ways, and count my every step? If I have walked with falsehood, or my foot has hurried after deceit, let God weigh me in honest scales, and he will know that I am blameless.”
I think this chimes with us, when we see crimes against the innocent. So I was surprised by what John Sweet said next. He focused instead on God’s response. Listening to Job’s – entirely justifiable – complaints, God thunders back: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand….?
I had to think about this. But what I think was meant was, why are we trying to solve the intellectual puzzle about the why, why, why; rather than getting involved in making it better? Let’s leave the why to whoever might know. Let’s instead focus on what we can do.
And what we can do is possible. We can hold those who died, and those who mourn them, in our thoughts and prayers. We can refuse to give in to those who would seek to make us too scared to lead our normal lives. And maybe we can befriend the unfriended, so that what holds us together is always stronger than what pulls us apart.
I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.