Summary: Making sense out of suffering as a result of an unexpected disaster. While we are helpless Christ comes to the rescue.
17th August 1997 Tathra/Bega UCA
SUBJECT: Making sense out of suffering
I will never forget the scene ….
I had just entered the Thredo Alpine Hotel which had been transformed into the Disaster Welfare Centre.
I was not really that sure of what my role as a chaplain over the next day and a half would be, and I was feeling somewhat uneasy.
It was then I noticed this lady, tears rolling down her cheeks - a bundle of newspapers in her arms – she was kissing the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald.
As I came alongside her, I was to discover that she was kissing the photograph of her missing son – an employee of the very hotel we were standing in.
It was a very emotional chapel service later that evening, with a number of relatives in attendance. Relatives were still tossed between hope and despair waiting for news of their loved ones – conscious that one miracle had taken place just an hour or so earlier.
They were hoping and praying that it might be repeated.
The emergency helicopter took off right next to the chapel at the very time the Anglican minister was in prayer giving thanks for the safe recovery of Stuart Diver.
I returned home from Thredbo, emotionally and physically tired, aware of a my need to prepare for the funeral of an old man on the next Tuesday.
But I was also conscious that another local family known to me was trying to come to terms with the tragic death of their daughter in a road accident (only 23 years old) a few days earlier.
It was a sobering week, observing and being alongside people in the extremity of their grief.
How do we begin to make sense out of tragedy & suffering?
Suffering raises many questions
– I don’t claim to know too many answers…..
But I think that some truths have come home to me from my recent experiences.
1. Life is temporary and fragile – we should treat it with care
To the extent to which we are able, we should be careful of our own lives that God has given us.
Life is only short whether we live for 1 year or 100 years.
The choice is ours.
We can choose to live our years to the full by doing what pleases God, or we can squander our lives and become a burden to God, ourselves and the society.
Yes life is fragile - we should also treat each other with care.
God gives us the gift of relationships – tragically it is only when we lose someone, that we realise that we had been taking them for granted, or worse still there was unfinished business.
When we ourselves leave this life, it will be a bit late to give a hug, to say we love someone or apologise for our selfish behaviour.
When I came home from Thredbo, I felt very strongly that I wanted to draw my family close to me and acknowledge how grateful I was for them.
Isn’t it true that other peoples’ tragedies help us appreciate each other a little more?
Life is fragile, relationships are fragile.
We do well to take care.
2. We need firm foundations
It has become painfully obvious that although those buildings at Thredbo were well constructed, the ground on which they stood was anything but stable. Those buildings were not standing on firm foundations.
But what became obvious to me – it might have to you too – was that the Thredbo tragedy left many people asking some pretty fundamental questions about what really mattered in life.
For a week or so, God made the headlines.
There was reference to prayer, miracles, and all 4 TV channels televised the church service on the Monday. For just a little while the church was given some credibility as having relevance in our modern world. As chaplains we were sought after by the press to get inside information about the victims and their families.
But we were also recognised as having some role in the process of trying to make sense of it all.
As I looked at the scene of devastation, I couldn’t help but wonder how I would be reacting if it was my loved ones buried under all that rubble.
The question needs to be faced……..
What do we do when the bottom drops out of our lives?
We can ….
* Question or doubt God
I am sure there have been plenty of questions
thrown heavenward over those sad weeks folllowing
the disaster weeks.
* Blame or reject God.
Some people will no doubt have done that.
* Turn back to God
For sure there were no doubt many who turned to