10th February 2023

This is being written in a week when I’m also preparing a sermon for a service in another church.  My readings were sent off three weeks ago, and I was planning to mention by way of illustration the example of Job’s undeserved suffering in the Old Testament book that bears his name. That was, of course, all before the borderlands of Turkey and Syria were hit by the double earthquakes that have brought such an appalling death toll, along with widespread injury, loss and devastation in the depths of bitterest winter. These cruel realities serve to dare me to offer up preacher’s platitudes when I stand before that congregation on Sunday morning.

But, in truth, what else have I got? Those poor people were visited with their undeserved suffering as they lay in bed in the supposed security of their homes. Whole neighbourhoods and families were wiped out in a matter of minutes, and for those who somehow escaped death, along with the teams of exhausted rescuers, life will never be the same again.

No, there aren’t any easy answers for a preacher to hide behind come Sunday. We don’t know why God allows such things to happen, or why this family escaped, while that one didn’t, but we can know that our sadness and questioning have meaning and value with God. If we believe we follow a risen Saviour, then we can know that Christ himself is there with the people in their hellish nightmare, reaching out in compassion through the hands of the (mainly Muslim) rescue workers, AND through the prayers and generosity of folk like us.

Ken Stewart