I was discovered yesterday via a friend that Andrew Jones (better known as Tall Skinny Kiwi) lost his wife about 6 months ago, then via the same friend today of someone's wife being mauled by dogs and dying in Bolivia. People die all the time, but for reasons I don't really understand it seems much more significant to me in THIS year than ever before.
There's a feeling of helplessness that goes with it all.
I've been trying to re-connect my faith and understanding with who God can really be in the light of the suffering and death of those we know and love, and keep coming back to the idea that our suffering and death isn't really that important to God in itself. Starting with Jesus, He came to suffer and die so that we could have life. His disciples expected to suffer and die because that was His example and a likely outcome of following the other things He did. The early church expected to suffer and die because that was the natural outcome of trying to live as a Christian in a pagan society that knowingly embraced the demonic. There are occasional instances of people missing out on suffering - Peter gets released from prison in Acts - but only for a time before meeting an even less pleasant end.
Chris and I were talking about one of the songs done by Gospel Bell at the gig last night "Give me that old-time religion". The lyrics are almost funny in their niavity about church history: one line suggests that 'old-time religion' was good enough for the pilgrim fathers, who actually fled to America to escape the influence of 'old-time religion'. If there weren't enough suffering in the world then the historic church would bring some more to make sure the necessary quota were met. Not that I'm suggesting God instigated that.
And then I read a gospel or 2.
Jesus quite clearly appears to go around alleviating suffering, bringing comfort and a sense of worth to people. It's at odds with every other period of history.