Where was God? And what are we doing?

We had some really honest prayers in church this morning. Chris, who was leading them, asked God “where were you” in relation to the September 11th attack, the tsunami last Boxing Day and last week’s Louisiana hurricane. I guess that’s a question many people have been asking but how often are we Christians willing to ask it? Do we feel that to even ask the question is to be guilty of doubting God.
I think it’s a question God is happy for us to ask because at least it shows that we “count him in” when we wrestle with the big issues: sudden death, cancer, murders, terrorism …
What’s my answer? Well I have thought over and over again and my only answer to people who want to know where God was when something tragic happened is that he was right there in the middle of it: under the rubble of the twin towers, swept under the waves and crushed under the broken homes in New Orleans. My God is always with the suffering.
But there’s another question: why is there so much resistance to helping homeless and devastated Americans? I have heard two phone-in programmes where people say that American is rich enough not to need anyone’s help. Is compassion dependent on being poor? Do I only love those who live in under-developed countries? Is God only interested in minority Christians who live in hostile places?
Surely if human beings are suffering it’s our place to help. I haven’t heard about a Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Louisiana even though much of the city of New Orleans may never be rebuilt.
Yes, America is a rich nation. Yes, I think their foreign policy stinks. But no, I don’t think Americans deserve to be left to drown and suffer.

Here’s a hymn I wrote almost immediately after the tsunami. It goes to a traditional tune “The Church’s One Foundation” or any 76.76.D metre.

When innocence is fractured

by nature’s shifting force,

and paradise is ruptured

as life is swept off course.

We come to pray our questions,

we come to share our grief;

in this, our act of worship,

to say that we believe.


As headlines overwhelm us

and make us close our minds;

as news from distant islands

brings death before our eyes.

We seek a hope to cling to,

a refuge to embrace;

lest in the grip of knowing

we lose our hold on grace.


How dare we speak of heaven

made human for our sakes,

or preach a loving Father

when seas and mountains quake?

We dare because our story

speaks of a love that came

to bear the cost of dying

and still would do the same.


In
Christ our souls take refuge,

though not to hide from truth:

we face each anguished question

with faith, if not with proof.

We hear his wistful question:

“And will you leave me too?”

Though all the world should crumble,

We hope, O Christ, in you.


Gareth Hill Copyright © 2005 GraceNotes Music

January 1, 2005

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  3. Good to see another British Methodist blogger – even one who once belonged to the same church as me.

    Generally I agree about the tragedy of New Orleans. I don’t think that the need will be so much money (other countries have greater need of that) but skills and certain items such as blankets are likely to be needed.

    Like you I dislike US foreign policy but that should not be a barrier on compassion. Indeed there is a difference in being anti the Bush Gov’t and beinga anti American.

    Best wishes from the other side of the Tamar.

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  5. Just found your site and wanted to thank you for those great words, which articulate so much that too often we don’t even acknowledge in the church…I love “we come to pray our questions”. I’m in a rather spikey C of E parish,where many would see it as unutterably presumptuous to question God in any way (assuming they allowed themselves to get close enough to address God at all!) and as a result we’re rarely as honest as we need to be in worship.
    I’m going to have a wander through some more of your blog now…btw..have you thought of installing comment verification, to spare you from some of the rhubarb that has afflicted this particular post?

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