A wee while ago I was approached by BBC Radio Scotland and invited to have a go at being a contributor to Thought for the Day. It’s been great experience for me to learn how it’s put together and work with some of the team, and after a couple of trial runs and lots of guidance, this morning I gave my first live “Thought”.
When I was a teenager I thought about trying to go into journalism, and I did my high school work experience placement at Radio Borders back in the day! But journalism seemed so competitive as a career that I put the dream to bed long ago. So walking into a studio this morning was a bit surreal, but no less exciting for that. God continually surprises us!
Anyway, in a week of hard news, this is what I said:
This week’s news has provided ample reminder were any needed, of the untamable power of the natural world – hundreds have been killed in the devastating earthquake in Italy, while at home lives have been lost to the clutches of the sea, both at Aberdeen City Beach and at Camber Sands.
Our relationship to the natural world is ambivalent. There’s no life without water, and no food without the crops yielded by the ground. Mountains and oceans are the setting for our rest and relaxation as well as for work and daily life. Yet in a moment they can turn from a source of joy and life to one of fear and death. Nature has no regard for our feelings.
In the face of natural disaster, some may find comfort in a faith tradition, while others find long-term beliefs challenged. So where might hope be found in the midst of disaster?
In the Hebrew scriptures when the prophet Elijah despairs over his plight, he escapes to the desert to seek guidance. God tells Elijah to go and stand outside a cave because He’s about to pass by. When Elijah does so, there’s a mighty wind that splits mountains and breaks rocks into pieces but the Lord isn’t in the wind. After the wind comes an earthquake, but the Lord isn’t there, either. God is not found in indiscriminate acts of nature.
But Elijah stays where he is, waiting… And after the tumult, there comes a silence. Into it, the still, small voice of God speaks to Elijah with words of hope and direction for the future. He isn’t abandoned.
How might we respond to the loss of life we’ve seen this week? Maybe it’s right that for a time all we can do is to stay where we are, to wait, and to seek out moments of quiet. Maybe sometimes we need silence and space in which to come to terms with circumstances beyond our understanding.
As I reflect on the news, I find myself acknowledging that sometimes we just don’t have any easy answers to the questions posed by things that happen. Yet perhaps it’s precisely in the silence that we can invite the still, small voice of hope to speak to us, too.