It’s difficult to comprehend what life must be like when everything you’ve ever owned is swept from under you. Exactly one year on from the devastation of Haiti we are watching them suffer again and we see the people of Australia look on impotently as their homes disappear under torrents of water.
The question of how we respond – and how we pray – is crucial for us as Christians. We can’t all go to disaster areas and we can’t all give to every appeal that comes onto our TV screens. So what do we do – what should we do? How should we pray? We’ve read more than once that we should pray with faith and in confidence, but what does that mean when we are praying for whole countries? How do you offer a meaningful prayer for Haiti which has been, quite frankly, a basket case for years?
We know – and God knows – that it will take political change and the change in politicians’ hearts and minds for significant improvement to come for so many people there. It will take the international community to work with those politicians and to “encourage” them to own up to their responsibilities. We can pray for that.
We can pray for hard hearts to melt. We can pray for barriers to food distribution to be broken down. We can pray for corruption to end. We can pray for aid workers to be safe and to be able to do their work.
And, above all, we can declare that we believe in a God who wants the best for all his creation. We can make it clear that we do not believe in a God who punishes by bringing flood, disease and malnutrition. If our God sent Jesus to free this world from death through his own death on the cross, then the last thing he would do is to deliberately choose to keep flinging death back in our faces as a punishment. The God who walks through the valley of the shadow with us eventually walks out of the darkness alongside us.
That’s why I wrote the following hymn, originally after the 2005 Boxing Day tsunami. You can sing it to the tune of “The Church’s one foundation” – usually called Aurelia.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.
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