John, Willie & Moses

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John’s a good friend. I’ve know him for many years. He went into hospital a month ago and became very ill with Covid. He finally came out of hospital on Monday.

He’s not a regular church-goer; I mentioned that I’d asked some friends to pray for him. Last night he messaged me – and asked me to pass on…

‘…I wanted to say thank you for taking the time and care you did to pray for me. I saw five people pass away in my bay alone, and have come away not only surviving 5 ops and  3 potentially fatal illnesses against the odds, but also returned home with a new appreciation of life…’

…Musing more on Woodbine Willy, (in Jonathan Brant’s excellent ‘Running into No Man’s Land’) tending the wounded and dying in the muddy trenches of the first world war. A different context, but life, death, and unspeakable human suffering…

…Musing on the Moses story(in Exodus 7-12): a megalomaniac politician, stubbornness and lies, plagues of boils and frogs, hail storms, human slavery and suffering, life and death…

The repeated question: Where is God on the covid ward, in the global pandemic or First World War trenches? What about national disasters or power-crazy politicians? And if he is there what sort of God is he?

Woodbine Willy says: ‘That’s the way it is with war. It shouts and bawls its questions at you. It throws them at you stark, raw, quivering, and all shot through with pain.’

As he faced these questions he discovered, in an ever-deepening way, a truth that’s equally relevant a century later. His God is ever-present in his broken world, he’s there alongside his suffering people. As he’s there he feels and shares their pain, suffering and desperation.

As we see a suffering God who’s present in the madness and chaos, we also see a God who brings his beauty, joy, compassion and hope.

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