A person I admire much is C.S. Lewis. I never got to meet him. He passed away when I was five, and I didn’t learn about him until I converted to Christianity in the late 70s. C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity, is one of the first Christian books I read. It’s still one of the books I recommend to people who want to learn more about their faith.

After reading Mere Christianity, I was hooked. Over the next few years, I ploughed through many of his other books: The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, and, of course, the Chronicles of Narnia series.

Recently, I stumbled across a quote (from 1948) by C.S. Lewis addressing the fear that gripped the world in the wake of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan that effectively ended WW2. There is much of what he wrote that is still applicable over seven decades later as the world is gripped by another catastrophe:

In one way, we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world that already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that), but they need not dominate our minds. — “On Living in an Atomic Age.”


What a way Lewis had with words. There’s so much in this extract from one of his Journalistic Essays that we can meditate on today. Death is inevitable, and there are so many ways in which a person can die. But that thought should not stop us from making the very most of every moment in the meantime.

During 2020, I’ve watched people deal with the global pandemic in all sorts of ways. Some have gone down the rabbit hole of conspiracies (as if the world has never faced a pandemic before). Others have been gripped by fear or denied there even is a virus! But most of us have taken it in our stride, trusted our leaders, listened to wise advice, and made the most of life as it became. My introverted friends even told me they enjoyed the lockdown.

Jesus taught his followers to make the most of every season of life they found themselves in. In the Parable of Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27), Jesus used a word that is found only once in the New Testament. He told them, “Occupy till I come” (13). The word pragmateuomai is an ancient mercantile term for trading. It means “to be fruitful, to be occupied in anything; to carry on a business.”

Pragmateuomai is where our English word “pragmatic” is derived. It means, be practical, sensible, & reasonable – excellent qualities for any person, especially followers of Jesus. Sadly, this year I’ve seen some of God’s people (even pastors and church leaders) spread lies and conspiracies that are anything but sensible and reasonable. Time will show their teachings, scaremongering, and (so-called) prophecies to be what they are – entirely false!

Let God’s people be known for their common-sense, their wisdom, and their fruitfulness. And let’s enjoy our lives and help others to do the same. Let’s remember the words of C.S. Lewis when the end comes, let it “find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.” Or pandemics!

These are not the best of times, nor are they the worst of times.

Some people are faring better than others in this pandemic altered world. Others are finding the isolation and particularly the uncertainty of the future difficult to deal with.

That’s why, certainly in Christian circles, the metaphor of ‘wandering in the desert’ is particularly popular at the moment.

We have, many of us, an indelible image of the ancient Jewish nation, newly freed from slavery in Egypt, wandering around in the desert for forty long years.

It’s an amazing story of hope and hardship, doubt and division. Does that sound familiar?

One of my spiritual hobbies is reading Bible stories and then trying to find parallels in my own life. It gives the stories relevance in my world, which is so different from the biblical world.

I have a modern-day story that might shed some light on handling the anxiety you may be feeling at this difficult time.

It’s about a desert wandering I did, but this was a wet desert – not hot, but icy cold.

The experience is helping me face another desert crossing I’ve been forced into which has lasted eleven years so far.


Adult Themes Nudity 

Course Language 

Up until ten years ago, I was a keen swimmer. Not talented, but dedicated. Four days a week I swam about two kilometres in the local public pool. Occasional on a weekend this distance might double.

As well as pool swims, I was talked into entering a number of bay swims. The famous Pier To Pub, the Portsea Classic and several others became fixtures in my life.

Winning for me did not mean reaching the end first. Finishing was my goal.

To achieve this I developed a simple routine. Two weeks before a race I made sure that, in a single session, I swam one and a half times the distance of the upcoming event.

I did this more for mental reassurance than for fitness. If I’d already done it in the pool I was confident I’d manage the race itself.

Then some of my swimming buddies, all at least twenty years younger than me, let slip that they had entered an event I’d never heard of.

‘The Big Bay Swim’ was a race from Beacon Cove to Williamstown – across the shipping lanes of Port Phillip Bay.

The entry form said it was four point five kilometres, which was more than double the longest distance I had attempted outside of a pool.

In spite of my slight trepidation, I filled in the form.

On the day, in the cold predawn darkness, I drank some extra water and ate my final food before the race – a banana. I wondered whether my preparation had been adequate.

About three hundred of us waited on the shoreline. Nothing happened for what felt like an eternity.

This sent my carefully calculated routine into disarray.

I’m not a control freak, but in those days I hadn’t learned to loosen my grip on things and let my confidence rest with a higher power. I was the skipper of my boat, and did my own navigation too. Graham the Great! Not outwardly arrogant, but inwardly unprepared to submit to God’s guidance.

I was very much like many of those people in that ancient desert.

Eventually, a voice from above, speaking over a loud hailer, informed us that the event officials had been waiting for clearance from the Port Authority to ensure all shipping was clear before sending us off.

Then I heard some course language that shocked me as I stood there in my tracksuit.

‘Oh. By the way, we’ve had to adjust the course slightly, so it’s now five point two kilometres, not four point five.’

My confidence, normally buoyant, sank into my slippers, which I wore to keep my feet warm before entering the dark water.

This swim was testing me even before I was wet.

A few minutes later, stripped to my skimpy Speedos, and Gaynor departed with my clothes and towels to meet me on the other side, I was as ready as the circumstances allowed. Naked in body and spirit.

The first wave of swimmers was set off. These were the under thirties. Ten minutes later the megaphone voice had the Seniors step up.

We were not athletic looking, so the low light was a blessing. There were a few skinny bodies and many more that were distinctly aquatic in shape. Most wore wetsuits, but not this little black duck.

I could say I was old school and tough, but the truth is I was not prepared to spend money on something I might only use a handful of times.

I stood and looked across the sparkling water to orientate myself. Way off in the distance I could make out the giant cranes in the naval dockyard. They were lit up like Christmas trees and seemed much closer than five point two kilometres away.

‘Take your marks … GO!

Off we waddled into Port Phillip Bay, goggles protecting our eyes and swim caps making us more visible in the dark water.

It was from this moment that I became focused solely on myself.

When the water was up to my knees I lunged forward in a shallow dive. There were bodies all around me threshing away in the darkness, but I was oblivious.

With my legs kicking and my arms stroking through the water, I was off.

It was great to be in action at last, and I surged ahead. My body was performing, but my mind was somehow still computing my compromised preparation.

It took a short time to get into my stride, and even less time to shudder to a stop.

I looked ahead to the cranes way over there in Williamstown, then turned to look at where I’d come from.

About five hundred metres was all I’d managed before succumbing to utter exhaustion.

I couldn’t believe it! What was going on? Surely I could swim further than this! But my arms and shoulders were aching.

‘I’d better not go further. Thank goodness I’m only this far from the shore.’

That was my first thought. Relief of sorts. My next was almost panic inducing.

‘If I swim back to shore I’ll be wet, almost completely naked, and there’s no way of contacting Gaynor.’

My mind raced as my legs treaded water and I weighed up my limited options.

‘I can’t go forward, but I can’t go back either.’

That was the emotional voice in my head focusing on all the negatives.

‘Take us back to Egypt, Moses. Slavery was better than this. At least we knew what to expect. It’s all your fault we’re in this mess.’

But then another voice in my head became audible.

‘Get a grip, Graham. You’ve swum much further before, so what’s the problem now?’

A dialogue started to unfold as more swimmers passed me. They sparked a reaction.

‘If they can do it, so can I. Can’t I?’

After what seemed like ten minutes, but was probably only ten seconds, I struck a deal with myself. It was hard bargaining, I can tell you.

‘I WILL do one hundred strokes towards the finish before I allow myself to stop again.’

I shook hands with myself and off I went, in the wake of several aquatic shapes, who were becoming more visible in the dawn light.

What began as a one, two, three, four count each time a hand hit the water, soon progressed to a twenty, and a twenty one, and a twenty two, count each time my right hand went in.

When I got to around eighty strokes I renegotiated with myself because I was feeling quite good. The goal became one hundred and fifty strokes before I’d allow myself to stop.

I kept moving the goal further out and never stopped again until I arrived on the other side, in Williamstown, underneath the cranes.

The lesson for me was understanding that focus is important, but even more important is what you focus on.

Looking back now at the race, I realise that when I was at my weakest, in the darkness and feeling at my most vulnerable, I was being gifted my greatest strength. And that was where I won my personal race.

So look at adversity as an opportunity to grow.

I came so close to giving up and turning back to the safety of the shore, not knowing what I would have lost.

An attitude of ‘Are we there yet’ only makes the journey seem longer.

The wise among us start each morning by saying to themselves, in spite of the circumstances facing them: ‘This is the day that the Lord has made. What’s the best I can do with it?’

Looking toward the week and the month and beyond brings with it dangers to our endeavour.

Adult Themes

Here’s the Adult Theme. The situation all of us are facing with the pandemic still around, is that it, like the journey of life itself, is full of changing courses, unforeseen obstacles and moments when we will feel uncomfortably exposed.

How you handle it is a matter of which internal voice you choose to listen to. That is why it’s such a blessing to have the Scriptures downloaded onto your mental hard drive for easy access in critical moments.

That way you can drown out the arguments that go on in your head each time you hit a hurdle.

Gaynor read from James 1 some words that are relevant to any desert wandering.

‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’

I was interested in reading today about an increase in people praying during the current pandemic as well as people buying and reading the Bible. Times of crisis often compel us to turn to God, and that’s a good thing. The Bible has much to encourage us in life and is a rich source of comfort and strength in times of need.

In light of this, I’ve heard some people link the COVID-19 pandemic with the story of Job, so I thought it would be timely to revisit this ancient book.

Delving Into Job

Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible dating back to the first part of the 2nd millennium BC. Moses likely discovered the book while he was in Midian (NW Arabia near the land of Uz where Job is said to come from) and sent it to the enslaved Hebrews in Egypt to bring them hope and encouragement in their suffering.

There are two interpretations we need to be wary of when it comes to understanding Job. First is the view that Job addresses the question, “why do people suffer?” Ultimately those who hold this belief will tell you we don’t know why, that God is sovereign and we shouldn’t question God. Mere mortals need to do the best they can in dealing with life’s suffering.

The second view is taught by the Word of Faith preachers. The key verse for this interpretation is Job 3:25, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” Job, they say, was in fear not in faith and so he left the door open for Satan to kill his kids, ruin his businesses and take his health. If that’s the case, we’re all in trouble – who doesn’t fear something from time to time? If fear leads to God giving permission to Satan to destroy our property, family, and health, then none of us would fare well.

Where Views Lead

It’s this belief that has led to much condemnation and unkindness amongst Christians. You’re sick, it’s your fault. You must have sin in your life. If you just had enough faith, you’d be healed. It’s interesting to note that these statements are a summary of the words from Job’s miserable comforters. At the end of the story, God censures Job’s friends “because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”

Conservative theologian, John Piper, proclaims this view in his latest book, Coronavirus and Christ, when he writes, “some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions.”

Neither of these views of the story of Job is satisfying or accurate, as we’ll see as we delve into this marvellous story. The ultimate question posed in Job is, “Do you worship God because God is God, or do you worship God because God is good?”

Delving Into Chapter One

Job chapter one sets the scene. There’s a heavenly board meeting, and the sons of God ha Elohim bane (not angels) came “to present themselves before the Lord, and has satan also came with them.” Has satan (pronounced huss sa-tarn) is not Satan, but rather one of the lesser gods. Satan didn’t come onto the scene until much later in Judaism and Christianity.

Monotheism, belief in one God, didn’t originate until the 14th century BC in Egypt. It didn’t become a lasting fixture in the world until the adoption of monotheism by Hebrews in Babylon. The Bible’s older documents reflect a belief in many gods. The first commandment is an attempt by God to nudge people away from polytheism: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). Elohim was to be the preeminent deity among the many gods.

The Lord asks, has satan, “where have you come from?” At this time, I must point out that the Book of Job is a poetic play. It may have been based on a true story, but much poetic license and metaphor are used. Of course, the Lord wouldn’t need to ask has satan where he’s been because the Lord is all-knowing. Now back to the story.

God is the one who brings Job into the discussion by asking, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

Has satan contends that Job only worships God because God has blessed and protected him and his family. But God, “stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” God agrees to the bet but sets a limit on has satan, “everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” The rest of chapter one tells of the destruction of Job’s children, his animals, and servants. Job’s response is to worship God.

Delving Into Chapter Two

Chapter two is almost a carbon copy of the first chapter, it just happened “on another day.” God once again brings up the matter of Job like he’s just itching to have another bet with has satan. Job “still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” Really? Does God really lack self-control? See why it’s crucial to interpret Job as a dramatic play?

“Skin for skin!” has satan replies. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” God agrees, take his health, but don’t kill him. Nice!

Job was afflicted with “painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.” Job maintained his integrity. He didn’t worship God this time, but neither did he curse God, even though his wife suggested he did. Mrs. Job often cops a bad rap, but consider what these poor women has just gone through. She would have been in deep grief over losing all her children in one day. We need to cut her some slack.

The three “friends” arrive, and a bad day turned much worse. No one said a word for a week, and then “Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.” And who can blame him?

Delving Further

The next chapters record the discourse between Job and his three miserable comforters. After a while, a fourth guy arrives, Elihu, who contradicts the other three and then opposes Job. This is the Bible answer man, you know, that annoying person who knows everything? He sounds so spiritual, and yet …

Finally, in chapter 38, the Lord re-enters the picture sounding a bit like the parent who asked their child to do something. The kid asks for a reason, and dad replies, “because I said so, because I’m the parent” or something equally as unsatisfying.

It’s not until we get to the final chapter that things begin to become evident. Job’s been right all along, the four friends who’ve been saying things like “some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions,” are told they are wrong.

One of my favourite Bibles is The Jewish Study Bible. It gives a terrific understanding of the Hebrew language, culture, and knowledge of Scripture, and some interesting insights into Job. In the Hebrew language, Job’s speech to God (42:1-6) is considered satire rather than submission. Job is disappointed and disgusted with what has happened to him and is annoyed with God.

Modern Day Interpretation

If I were to write this out in plain English, the interaction between God and Job would go something like this …

Job – Why did I suffer? Where were you when I was experiencing all this, God?

God – You can’t question me, I’m God.

Job – That won’t cut it with me. I am not satisfied with that excuse.

God – You’re right.

I know that our modern Christian mindset finds it very difficult to imagine God in this way. But that’s the climax of this incredible poetic play:

  • God can handle human anger with suffering, even when it’s directed at him.
  • God can handle our scrutiny about suffering. It’s perfectly fine to question God.

Job is rewarded for holding his ground, and God vindicates him. The moral of the story is this: keep worshiping God no matter what. “Do you worship God because God is God, or do you worship God because God is good?” A timely reminder in this or any other crisis.

In all my life, I haven’t seen anything like what we’re currently watching unfold around the world. The spread of Covid-19 (the Coronavirus) is evolving moment by moment, and every nation is responding in the way they deem necessary.

In Australia, gatherings of more than 100 people are now banned, and so many churches (including Bayside Church) are ceasing their weekly meetings and opting for online options and small groups. This is likely to be the case for at least six months, maybe longer!

Of course, this is not the first time the world has faced a pandemic. 36 million people died from HIV/AIDS, which was first identified in 1976. In 1918, 500 million people were infected with the Spanish flu, with up to 50 million causalities. Before that, you have to go way back to 1346 when 200 million people died from the Bubonic Plague.

But this is the first time in our lifetime that we have seen a global pandemic with such far-reaching consequences. So, what does the Bible say about the Coronavirus? There are several things …

This Is Not Revelation 13

Coronavirus is not the end of the world, it’s got nothing to do with an antichrist or the Mark of the Beast. I know some Christians will be very disappointed by this. I’ve met people who relish disasters because they somehow (in their mind) fulfil end time Bible prophecy. And this is not a new phenomenon. While the Black Plague ravaged Europe in the 1300s, people became convinced that their Jewish neighbours were secretly poisoning Christians’ wells. Conspiracy theories about Covid-19 range from believing the disease is a bioweapon to the result of eating bat soup. No, the Coronavirus has nothing to do with Revelation 13.

It Probably Has More to Do with Leviticus 13

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, medicine and religion were closely connected for Jews in ancient times. Priests were “the custodians of public health,” and Jews in biblical times regarded the physician as “the instrument through whom God could affect the cure.” This is the picture we see in Leviticus 13, which, although it may sound somewhat elementary to our ears, was very progressive for its time (around 1500 years before Jesus).

According to Leviticus 13:21, the priest was to inspect someone who had a disease and could “isolate the affected person for seven days.”  He would then re-examine them and could “isolate them for another seven days.” Fourteen days! Sound familiar? The diseased person “must live alone; they must live outside the camp.” And if they did walk around, they had to “wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’” By the way, my favourite verse from Leviticus 13 is verse 40, “A man who has lost his hair and is bald is clean.” Amen!

So, Coronavirus isn’t about Revelation 13. It has more to do with Leviticus 13. So:

Act According to 1 Corinthians 13

Consider, a few weeks ago, Aussies (and others) were demonstrating a whole lot of love. We were buying goods to be sent to areas ravaged by bushfires, we were donating money and putting others first. But not anymore. Now we’re emptying supermarket shelves, stockpiling rice and pasta, and fighting over toilet rolls. In a few weeks, we’ve seen the very best and the very worst of humanity. What we need is more of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails

Now, there’s some truth to live by.

Coronavirus isn’t about Revelation 13, it’s more like Leviticus 13. So, let’s act according to 1 Corinthians 13 until Romans 13 runs its course.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.”

Now, I know these verses have been and can be abused. I’ve written about this elsewhere in a blog Are All Governments Established by God?, but now would be a great time to listen to our leaders and put into practice their directions, for the common good. I encourage you to pray for all who are in authority and everyone who is unwell. Pray for our health and medical practitioners as well as emergency services. Look out for the most vulnerable, and stay connected as much as you can. Love courageously and be like Jesus to those around you.


Read Rob’s other blogs on the Bible and Covid-19:

Someone asked me a few days ago, “Where is God in the midst of all the suffering from the bushfires currently ravaging Australia?” It’s a good question and reflects the most frequently asked question about the Christian faith, which goes something like this: “If God is real, why do we see so much suffering and evil in the world?” I mean, if God is really that powerful, really sovereign, really in control, then why doesn’t He do something about the pain and suffering of people? There are several things to be said in answer to this question.

Suffering Caused by Humans

Firstly, it needs to be realised that people cause the vast majority of suffering on planet Earth. We have the free will to make choices. Some people choose well, others don’t. The poor decisions some people make invariably impact others, causing pain and suffering. So far this bushfire season, 24 people have been charged for arson although most of the fires were not deliberately started.

In past studies, criminologists have estimated that 85% of wildfires are caused by humans, with the remaining 15% of fires usually the result of lightning strikes. Human causes of bushfires include arson, along with non-malicious activities. Negligent behaviour of leaving a campfire smouldering, dropped cigarettes and matches, arcing from overhead powerlines, accidental ignition in the course of agricultural clearing, grinding and welding activities, sparks from machinery, and controlled burn escapes are all causes of bushfires.

Climate change is also a contributing factor. Australia’s climate has warmed by more than one degree Celsius over the past century, causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and droughts which dry out the undergrowth and create conditions that increase the risk of bushfires. In turn, the bushfires release a massive amount of carbon dioxide, which raise Australia’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating the problems associated with global warming.

At the beginning of time, God gave the responsibility of governing and controlling creation to human beings (Genesis 1:28). So, are we doing a good job? Sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no.”

Bono writes, “Extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years, and the facts show that we can get it to virtually zero within a generation – but only if we act.” That’s right, good people taking charge can end poverty in the next few decades. So instead of blaming God for suffering, we can all make this world a better place.

The same can be said about other significant issues of caring for the Earth and its people. Reducing pollution, caring for the environment, conservation, praying, and work for peace and justice amongst people and nations, economic justice and equality between rich and poor, male and female; racial equality for people of marginalised races; protection for refugees and asylum seekers and so on.

These are not merely political issues; they are significant matters that should concern all of us who pray for God’s kingdom to come, his will to be done on Earth as it is in heaven.

Suffering Caused by Natural Elements

But this still doesn’t account for the suffering that is NOT caused by people. What about natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, tsunamis, avalanches, extreme weather events, and 15% of bushfires that are not the fault of humans. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers to these complex scientific occurrences, it should be noted that the very things we enjoy on this planet can also harm us.

I love the trees. I appreciate their colour against a blue sky; I love their shade on warm days, and I breathe the oxygen they create. Trees play a role in the formation of rain and wind. Strong winds can cause large tree limbs to break. Sometimes these fall on people and cause injury and death.

Earthquakes are caused when tectonic plates move. If the Earth were solid, rather than being made up of plates that move, life, as we know it could never have survived. Earthquakes and volcanoes have been responsible for creating countries (such as Japan) and the stunning mountain ranges we enjoy. People can ski on many of these mountains. Sometimes avalanches happen, causing injury and death. Some people love climbing mountains. Occasionally they die trying.

Volcanoes occur when magma erupts through a weakness in the Earth’s crust (invariably as a result of an earthquake). Eruptions wouldn’t happen if the Earth were colder. But if this were the case, the cooling would remove the magnetic shield around Earth that protects the planet from cosmic radiation. The result would be out of control global warming, an increase in cancer-causing solar rays, and extensive solar winds that would dry out rivers, lakes, and seas. There goes your fishing, boating and surfing.

Floods cause havoc. They destroy homes, livestock, and people’s lives. They also create an explosion of new plant and animal life. Floods rejuvenate river systems, fill dams, soak agricultural land to prepare it for bumper crops, recharge groundwater systems, fill wetlands, and increase fish production because of nutrients supplied by the land during flooding. The gravity that keeps us on the planet also enables fatal falls; the fire that warms also burns; the water in which we swim can even drown.

Bushfires, as devastating as they are to human and animal life, are also necessary for the rejuvenation of vegetation. In fact, some plants actually need heat and smoke to release their seeds.

So, where is God in the bushfire’s crisis? God is actually right in the midst of suffering, hurting people. There’s a video doing the rounds on social media at present highlighting people who are praying. One lady said, “I don’t pray to the Lord very often but yesterday I never prayed so hard in all my life.” A guy said, “The sirens started up and at that point I was praying – and I was an atheist for 25 years.” Where was God? Right there!

Tragedies happen, and the suffering of people should never be downplayed. During this current crisis, we have an incredible opportunity to come together, to help one another, to be our best selves. Now is not the time for criticism and protests. We’ll have plenty of time to review what could have and should have been done once this crisis is over. Right now, let’s help those in need.

If you’d like to help, you can give a Tax-Deductible donation to the Bayside Foundation. Please specify your gift for “Bushfire Relief”.



I’d love to have a dollar for every time I’ve heard the words, “I just want to be happy.”  And I hear those words more and more as we increasingly become an individualistic, self-focused society.  Sadly, this phrase even comes from the mouths of Christian people as if happiness is somehow God’s perfect will for all of His children.

Now, if the will of God intersects with your happiness then all well and good, but Christians should not live with that expectation.  Consider this, if Jesus had made his choices based on happiness he would never have gone to the cross: “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”[1] Jesus calls his disciples to follow this example, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”[2] The answer is NO.

But we’ve been duped, conned by the happiness myth spread by Western culture and bought into by a modern, Western distortion of what is called Christianity but is, in fact, a poor reflection of the genuine article.  It’s “a different gospel, which really is no gospel at all,”[3] because the real gospel works everywhere and for everyone, not just those of us lucky enough to live in a prosperous, developed country, and not just by those whose lives happen to be going well most of the time.  It’s interesting that books inspired by the “Happiness Gospel” don’t seem to sell that well in countries like North Korea, Iraq and Syria.

The true gospel of Jesus has a cross at its centre – a cross to be taken up daily by Jesus’ followers.  The cross is something we die on – die to our selfish desires and motives, die to the need always to be right, and die to the pursuit of happiness when it takes us outside the realms of God’s will and purpose.

For example, I’ve had many conversations in recent years with people who’ve told me they are no longer happy in their marriage. The husband/wife they were once in love with they love no longer, and some of these people have chosen to leave their spouse and children because “I just want to be happy.”  Now, I realise that some marriages get to a point where they are beyond repair, and my intention here is not to condemn those who have gone through (or going through) a marriage breakup or divorce.  However, I do want to challenge the easy “out” I hear from some people all for the sake of personal happiness. [b]

Every marriage, including mine, goes through tough times.  It’s during these times that I go back to my vows and remind myself of what I signed up for: “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, and forsaking all others till death do us part.” These vows, which are easy to say but hard to live by, recognise that there will be times when happiness is absent from a marriage.  If we’ve bought into the cult of happiness we’ll find reasons to quit when life gets hard, but if we’ll take up our cross and stay faithful to our vows, there’s something on the other side of such obedience that outshines happiness by far, and that is JOY.

Happiness is based on happenings – life happens to be good.  I’m financially secure, things are going well with my husband/wife, my children are behaving themselves, work is satisfying, and my life is conflict free.  But when one or more of these things change my happiness vanishes and I want to get it back.  I just want to be happy!

Joy, on the other hand, is not dependent on circumstances, it is a gift from God.  Author Rick Renner puts it this way, “The Greek word for ‘joy’ is chara, derived from the word charis, which is the Greek word for ‘grace.’ This is important to note, for it tells us categorically that chara is produced by charis of God.  This means ‘joy’ isn’t a human-based happiness that comes and goes … Rather, true ‘joy’ is divine in origin … it is a Spirit-given expression that flourishes best in hard times. For example, in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, the Thessalonians were under great stress due to persecution; yet in the midst of it all, they continued to experience great joy. In fact, the Greek strongly implies that their supernatural joy was due to the Holy Spirit working in them. Paul even called it the “the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”[4]

Nehemiah tells us that, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”[5]  The writer to the Hebrews encourages us to fix “our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” [6]  It was joy, not happiness, that got Jesus through his suffering and brought him into an excellent place.  What joy God’s people miss out on when they make short-term decisions to get happiness but miss out on long-term joy because of those decisions.  I encourage you to allow God to form you through the tough times and you’ll come out the other side refined, mature and full of joy, to live a life beyond happiness.

It’s important in the tough times to know you are not alone, there is a community to support and walk with you.  Consider talking to someone and sharing what you are going through – friends, family, connect leaders, pastors, your GP and counsellors.

The Careline – ph 03 9583 2273

Beyondblue – ph 1300 22 4636

Lifeline – ph 13 11 14


[1] Luke 22:42

[2] Matthew 16:24-26

[3] Galatians 1:7

[b] https://baysidechurch.com.au/divorce-and-remarriage/

[4] Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Rick Renner

[5] Nehemiah 8:10

[6] Hebrews 12:2


McCrindle Research’s Faith and Belief in Australia Report was published in May this year and gave some excellent insights into the spiritual state of the nation.  A part of the paper that particularly interested me was the things that attracted and repelled people from religion or spirituality.

Attraction To Faith

The main thing that draws people to a religion, or to investigate spiritual things, is observing someone who has a genuine faith. Other attracting factors include experiencing personal trauma or a significant life change, or by hearing stories or testimonies from people who have changed due to their belief.  One the biggest turn offs is the telling of miraculous stories of healings or supernatural occurrences.  In other words, Australians are interested in hearing about someone’s life that has changed because of their faith, but they are not interested in everything working out miraculously.  Why?  It doesn’t reflect what life is like; it’s not genuine faith.

The Honesty of the Bible

The good news is that the Bible is full of stories where not everything works out well, and the book of Psalms is a particularly valuable resource of stories just like that.  The 150 Psalms can be divided into three main groups:

  1. Everything is wonderful, praise the Lord, hallelujah!
  2. Everything is not wonderful, I’m struggling like crazy, but the Lord is going to rescue me.
  3. Everything is not so good, I’m trying like mad, I’m praying hard, but God’s not listening, in fact, I think He’s gone missing.

A Psalm that fits into the last category is Psalm 88 – a contemplative song or poem set to a familiar tune from 645 B.C. titled “The suffering of affliction”.  Take some time to read Psalm 88, and you’ll be surprised at how honest the author (Heman) is.  He’s overcome with troubles, is feeling weak and overwhelmed, his friends and neighbours have deserted him, and he’s grieving as a result.  He’s praying to God every day, but he feels like God is hiding from him or just not listening.

You’ve probably read this Psalm but underlined little.  You may have wondered why it’s in the Bible, but I’m so glad it is because it reminds us that life is not always fair, and God seems to be completely comfortable with the author’s expressions of injustice.  Think about it, the Holy Spirit inspired Heman to write this Psalm, and the Israelites kept it for hundreds of years so that it’s in the Bible.  God wasn’t ashamed to have this Psalm included in His Holy Scriptures.  He wasn’t yelling out, “Oh, you can’t say that about me; I’m God!”

In the Bible, God challenges people over many things including idolatry and their failure to show justice towards the poor and marginalised.  He gets in the face of the hypocrites and the tightwads, but not once does he correct those who vent their frustration at him when they feel he’s disinterested, far away or has abandoned them, or when life is just not fair.

Jesus’ Struggle

Jesus could relate to Heman in that he too felt abandoned by God while he was on the Cross.  As he was dying, Jesus quoted a Psalm that he would have memorised when he was younger.  He thus used someone else’s experiences to express his own; that’s why Psalm 22 is “The Psalm of the Cross.”  It begins with, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are You so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?”  It’s encouraging for us to know that Jesus fully experienced the human condition including what it is like to feel abandoned by God and for things not to work out the way he wanted them to – that life is not always fair.

Our Struggles

The Bible tells of many great men and women of faith who experienced life’s unfairness.  For example, in Hebrews 11, the author takes the first 35 verses to tell great stories that all had miracle endings.  If you stopped there you’d feel that your own life was completely inadequate because you just don’t match up to these amazing people.  But life is not always fair, so he goes on to tell about “the others” “who were tortured … faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”  All these people faced gross unfairness, significant difficulties and challenges in life.  They died without receiving the answer to their prayers, but they are all referred to as people with strong faith.

The people’s lives mentioned in Hebrews 11 didn’t finish well, and neither does Psalm 88, “You have taken from me friend and neighbour—darkness is my closest friend.”  The end!  Ever felt like that?  Ever blamed God?  Ever felt guilty about feeling like that and blaming God?  I have and I imagine I’m in good company.

Genuine Faith is Honest Faith

The fact that life is not always fair enables us to be honest and realistic about our faith and remember that people in Australia are looking for people of genuine faith, not a faith where everything works out miraculously.  One of the most honest conversations I’ve ever had was with Myuran Sukumaran in January 2015.  I was in Kerobokan prison, visiting Andrew Chan for his 31st birthday, when I found out that Myu’s appeal had been denied.  I asked him if he’d like to talk about it, and the next morning we spent about three hours talking this through.  During our conversation, I asked him how his faith in God was going, and he told me he was angry with God.  I said that I didn’t think that was a problem and that God was big enough to handle his anger.  I encouraged him to read the Psalms in which so many of the authors express their anger towards God.  Myu took me at my word, read the Psalms and started his journey back to faith in God over the next few months before his execution.

As Peter Enns states: “Expressions of abandonment aren’t godless moments, evidence that something is wrong and needing to be fixed.  They relay the experiences of ancient men and women of faith, and were kept because those experiences were common  … for us they signal not only what can happen in the life of faith, but also what does happen.” [1]

People are looking for a genuine faith that is honest and realistic, not one that always has to have a Disney ending.  I encourage you to be authentic in your faith and, if you’re considering finding out more about Christianity, realise that you’ll be coming to God who loves you just the way you are and that you can be completely honest with him.

For more on this topic listen to my message When Life Is Not Fair.


[1] The Sin of Certainty, Peter Enns (P. 60)

The most frequently asked question about the Christian faith goes something like this: “If God is real why do we see so much suffering and evil in the world?”  It’s a fair question and one that deserves some good answers.  I mean if God is really that powerful, really sovereign, really in control then why doesn’t He do something about the pain and suffering of people?

It needs to be realised that people cause the vast majority of suffering on planet Earth.  God took a risk and gave humans freewill.  We have the ability to make choices.  Some people choose well, others don’t.  The bad choices some people make invariably impact on others causing pain and suffering.

Ultimately God is sovereign and He is moving history in the right direction.  His plan will eventually be fulfilled and His goodness will cover the earth.  But in the meantime we are not exempt from the pain that is inflicted when people do the wrong thing or good people do nothing.  When it comes to the day-to-day happenings in this world it should be noted, “God is in charge but not in control.”  In fact He has delegated the control of this world to people.

Right at the beginning of time He gave the responsibility of governing and controlling creation to human beings (Genesis 1:28).  So are we doing a good job?  Sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no.”  For example, Bono writes, “Extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years, and the facts show that we can get it to virtually zero within a generation – but only if we act.”  That’s right, good people taking charge can end poverty in the next few decades.  So instead of blaming God for suffering what are YOU doing to make a difference?  The same can be said about other major issues of caring for the earth and its people: reducing pollution, caring for the environment, conservation, praying and work for peace and justice amongst people and nations, economic justice and equality between rich and poor, male and female; racial equality for people of marginalised races; protection for refugees and asylum seekers and so on.

These are not merely political issues, they are deeply important matters that should concern all of us who pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven – for those of us who want to see things continue to improve on this planet as they have done for centuries.  That’s right, the world is actually becoming a better place, and if you don’t believe me then read history!

All of the above still doesn’t account for the suffering that is NOT caused by people.  For example, what about natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, bush fires, volcanoes, tsunamis, avalanches and extreme weather events?  While I don’t pretend to have all the answers to these complex scientific occurrences, there’s one thing I’d like to put forward about such phenomena, that is, “every blessing has a shadow side”.  What I mean by that is the very things we enjoy on this planet also have the ability to harm us.

I love trees.  I appreciate their colour against a blue sky; I love their shade on warm days; and I breathe the oxygen they create.  Trees play a role in the formation of rain and wind.  Strong winds can cause large tree limbs to break.  Sometimes these fall on people and cause injury and death.

Earthquakes are caused when tectonic plates move.  If the earth were solid, rather than being made up of plates that move, life, as we know it could never have survived.  Earthquakes and volcanoes have been responsible for creating countries (such as Japan) and the stunning mountain ranges we enjoy.  People can ski on many of these mountains.  Sometimes avalanches happen causing injury and death.  Some people love climbing mountains.  Occasionally they die trying.

Volcanoes occur when magma erupts through a weakness in the earth’s crust (invariably as a result of an earthquake).  Volcanoes wouldn’t happen if the earth were cooler.  But if this were the case the cooling would remove the magnetic shield around earth that protects the planet from cosmic radiation.  The result would be out of control global warming, an increase in solar rays that are believed to cause cancer, and extensive solar winds that could dry out rivers, lakes and seas.  There goes your fishing, boating and surfing.

Floods cause havoc.  They destroy homes, livestock and people’s lives. They also create an explosion of new plant and animal life, rejuvenate river systems, fill dams to give us an abundant supply of fresh water, give agricultural land a complete soaking to prepare it for bumper crops, recharge groundwater systems, fill wetlands and increase fish production because of nutrients supplied by the land during flooding.  Likewise bushfires, as devastating as they are to human and animal life, are also necessary for the rejuvenation of vegetation.  In fact some plants actually need heat and smoke to release their seeds.

The gravity that keeps us on the planet also enables fatal falls; the fire that warms also burns; the water in which we swim can also drown.

Tragedies happen and the suffering of people should never be downplayed.  These are opportunities for humanity to come together, to help one another, to be our best selves.  A wonderful example of this was the devastating 2004 Asian Tsunami that claimed up to 280,000 lives.  It prompted a worldwide humanitarian response in which a number of countries gave more than $18 billion in aid and helped in rebuilding the worst effected nations.

Finally, if God were to remove all evil from the world where would He start and finish?  Should He just get rid of the big-ticket bad guys like Isis and Al-Qaida?  Or should he also deal with people who speed and cause accidents?  Have you ever exceeded the speed limit?  Should He get rid of you?

Part of the Christmas story tells us the reason why Jesus came: “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

To us this seems like a pretty awesome message and yet, to the original hearers, it would have been like rubbing salt into their wounds.

Consider the nature of the society and times into which Jesus was born.  The nation of Israel had been conquered and oppressed by a succession of foreign powers for almost 600 years, starting with the Babylonian Empire in 586 BC.  This was followed by the Persians in 536 BC; the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, in 332 BC; and the Romans in 63 BC. Israel continued to be dominated and oppressed by Rome until 313 AD.  It was into this tyranny that Jesus was born.

Kenneth Bailey in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, states, “At the time of Jesus much of the land was owned by foreigners who controlled huge estates. Local farmers were obliged to rent land and were often treated unfairly” (P. 48).

Jesus was born into an economically and politically oppressed people who were looking for a Saviour to deliver them and to rejoice in the pain and destruction of their tormentors.  The last thing you want when you’re oppressed is for someone to point out “your” sins, faults and failures.  Sin is what “those” people are doing to “us”. “Our” sins are not worth noting compared to “their” sins against us.  Salvation is what “we”need – to be set free from “them”.

But Jesus didn’t speak about the oppressors or the political life of Israel and Rome, and so His message and ministry disappointed many because He hadn’t come to set people free from Roman oppression, He came to set them free from their own sins. 

Jesus faced opposition and was ultimately crucified because He challenged the sins of His own people, rather than the sins of the oppressors.  On one occasion some people came to Jesus to inform Him of the Galileans Pontius Pilate had slaughtered while they were worshipping God and making sacrifices to Him (Luke 13:1-3).  No doubt the people were expecting Jesus’ response to be one of outrage, but once again His message was disappointing: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  In other words, don’t worry about the sins of others, what about your sins?  Instead of outrage, Jesus gave this message: “You are all sinners; you all need to repent and receive God’s forgiveness and grace. You need salvation from your own sins and I am here to provide it for you.”  That is the Christmas story and that is why Jesus was born!

No doubt Jesus’ message is still disappointing to some people today.  Awful things still happen in the world and we want to be outraged and blame others for all the pain and suffering.  Some people even use this as an excuse to blame God, get angry with Him or choose not to believe at all.  After all, “If there is a loving God why is there so much suffering in the world?”  You might find Jesus’ message to be as disappointing as those in first century Israel, but the message hasn’t changed in 2,000 years.  God asks us to look within and deal with the sin in our own life.  Imagine if everyone did that.  We’d have heaven on earth and experience another aspect of the Christmas story, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Alarming reports however, are streaming in from all over the world that Christian believers in many countries are being tortured, imprisoned and even killed because of their faith in Jesus.

A report by Britain’s intelligence service MI6 reveals that there is an estimated 200 million Christians in 60 countries who are now facing persecution.

There were close to 100 million martyrs in the last century – that is more people martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ in the 20th century than in all the previous nineteen centuries combined. 15 million of these were Orthodox or Catholic Christians who died under the Soviet regime between 1917 and 1980, primarily in prison camps.  Some were crucified by nailing them to the door of their churches or stripped naked, doused with water and left to freeze in the winter air.

More people died in circumstances related to their faith in the last century than in all the 20th century wars combined.

According to the 2011 Open Doors’ World watch list of the worst persecuting nations, North Korea has topped the list again. More than 50,000 Christians are incarcerated in work camps in North Korea because they refuse to submit to the extreme views rigorously enforced by the country’s dictator, Kim Jong-Il.  One expert on North Korea stated: “Christians are the target of fierce government action, and once caught, are not regarded as human. Last year we had evidence that some [of those captured] were used as guinea pigs to test chemical and biological weapons.”

Other persecuting countries include: Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Iraq, Uzbekistan and Laos. Muslim nations are the biggest persecutors of those of other faiths.

So, what should our response be to these things?

Firstly, we should be grateful that we live in a nation such as Australia that grants us freedom to express our faith.

Secondly, we need to be prepared.  We do enjoy great freedom in Australia right now, but that might not always be the case.  Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also …” (John 15:20).

Thirdly, be encouraged. Maybe you’re experiencing a level of persecution right now.  The Bible tells us that nothing – not even persecution – can separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8:35).

Fourthly, be compassionate. Sympathy looks and turns away, compassion comes to help and stay. Proverbs 31:8 encourages us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”  In the United States, after fierce lobbying by some churches and other groups, American legislators agreed to levy punishments ranging from diplomatic protests to economic sanctions against countries that persistently persecute Christians and other religious minorities.  We can make a difference by speaking up.

Finally, be prayerful. Last Sunday more than 300,000 churches in 100 countries took part in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Add the persecuted church to your prayer list. Pray specifically that God would be glorified; the great commission would be completed, that the Holy Spirit would purify and comfort his church.

If you would like to find out more on how you can assist persecuted Christians around the world check out these websites and books:

Open Doors: http://www.opendoors.org.au

Christian Solidarity Worldwide: http://www.csw.org.uk/home.htm

World Christian Resources:

Welcome to Australia

Faith that endures: by Ronald Boyd-MacMillan

In the Lion’s Den: by Nina Shea

The persecuted church prayer devotional: by Beverly Pegues

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If God is all-powerful why doesn’t he stop evil and suffering in the world?  This question is best answered by one of Jesus’ famous stories:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”

This story teaches that there will come a time when all evil will be uprooted from the world.  In the meantime, suffering can actually be of benefit.  For instance, suffering can wake people up to their need for God.  In his book, “The problem with pain” CS Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world…”

Suffering can also bring amazing things out of our lives.  There is something I have noticed time and time again, that people who respond to great suffering with a good attitude actually develop the most amazing character and invariably do incredible things.  Think how the song Amazing Grace has touched millions of people – and still does today.  And yet that hymn was written out of great adversity.  Smith Wigglesworth once wrote, “Great faith is the product of great fights.  Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests.  Great triumphs can only come after great trials.”

At the end of time all evil – and the suffering that results – is going to be uprooted from the world.  There was no suffering in God’s original created order, and there will be no suffering when God creates a new heaven and a new earth.

Gavin Reid, the Bishop of Maidstone, tells of a boy in his congregation, who shattered his back falling down the stairs at the age of one and had consequently been in and out of the hospital.  When Gavin interviewed him in church the boy remarked, “God is fair.”  Gavin stopped him and asked, “How old are you?”  The boy replied, “Seventeen.”  “How many years have you spent in the hospital?”  The boy answered, “Thirteen years.”  He was asked, “Do you think that is fair?”  He replied, “God’s got all of eternity to make it up to me!”

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…”

The problem of suffering is the subject of the most frequently raised question concerning the Christian faith: “If there’s a loving God why is there so much suffering in the world?”

Suffering is something that touches everyone.  From large-scale events such as wars and natural disasters to suffering on an individual level like bereavement, sickness, broken relationships, involuntary singleness, depression, loneliness, poverty, persecution, rejection, and disappointment.  Suffering can come in an endless variety of forms and no human being is immune from it – not even Christians.

But what causes suffering?  Many people blame God because He claims ultimate control in the world and so He has the power to change all things.  Blame is nothing new.  The first humans excelled at it.  Adam blamed both his wife and God – “The woman YOU put here with me.”  Eve blamed the devil and hence started a popular Christian pastime!  No one took personal responsibility and little has changed.

The main cause of suffering though has more to do with us, not God.  People doing bad things, or not doing good things, causes most suffering.

People doing bad things cause about 95% of suffering in this world.  Watch the television news sometime and note the amount of suffering that results in this way.  People are the main cause of suffering, not God.  There is a propensity for evil in all of us.  If God decided to get rid of all evil in the world He would have to destroy the entire human race!  The Bible records that things got so bad in times gone by that God did take this kind of drastic action – with Noah’s Flood and Sodom & Gomorrah.  God has also made a promise that this level of judgment would not occur again until the final judgment.  Until that time suffering will be a part of the human experience.

In 1998 I read a challenging quote from the United Nations.  It said that if everyone in the developed world gave the cost of a cappuccino each week to combat world poverty, there would be no poverty.  How amazing is that?  $4 a week could eradicate world poverty.  Obviously, that has not happened and so we must conclude that most people in the wealthier nations don’t even give $4 a week to help others – a sad indictment indeed.

There are lots of great things being done around the world that are making a massive difference to those who are suffering, but there needs to be more.  As Edmund Burke once said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Ultimately suffering is an alien intrusion into God’s world.  Jesus fought against suffering wherever He came across it.  He fed the hungry, healed the sick and preached Good News.  He calls his people to do the same: to love and be compassionate to those who are suffering, not condemning.  To rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and to help relieve human suffering whenever we have the opportunity.