I’m coughing rather vehemently at the moment and after some hesitance, left work early today following some emphatic advice from my colleagues. I know my hacking was disturbing them through our shared wall, and I understand that they don’t want my germs. I’ve struggled through worse at work but surrendered to their logic that things I thought I needed to do were easily covered or rearranged. I know I’ve encouraged others to go home when they are sick – I think part of it is colleague solidarity and hoping that someone else will say the same to you when the time comes. When my attempts to make light of my symptoms were dismissed as ‘being a martyr’ I decided I might as well be grateful and head for home. I could also interpret it as just changing work location – the viva prep I will be doing from home over the next weeks means I’ll easily be in credit in terms of work hours.
I was sad to hear that the miners in New Zealand will never be going home – not home as they knew it anyway. Having blogged about the miners in Chile and given God the glory I don’t want to just ignore the opposite outcome. A rather bitter song, ‘Blame it on the Lord’ in the Millennium Musical performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company argued that if we praise God for the good stuff, he should take the flak (they might not have said flak) for all the bad stuff too. I can see the logic in this argument.
One of the main points that the families in Chile emphasised was the fact that God was with them. I hope the families of the men in New Zealand felt the same, even though their hopes of rescue were not fulfilled and their loved ones died. I pray now that they will be comforted in their grief by family, friends and professionals and that investigations into safety at the mine will lead to better practice in the future. I don’t know the statistics about mining accidents and how often people escape alive. I know it is a dangerous profession and that over the years there have been famous and less well known mining disasters, several of which are remembered in folk songs I know well like The Gresford Disaster, adapted as ‘The Colliers’ by Seth Lakeman and Morley Main by Keith Marsden. Whether caused by human error, unfit working practices or simply the balance of risks, any loss of life is tragic and has deep consequences for loved ones.
Stating the obvious, people die all the time; many of them much earlier than we would consider fair or expected. Suffering and deaths of close friends or family lead many people to question their faith and others to reject the idea of a loving God entirely. I don’t think pat answers are ever helpful to people in pain and feel the best we can do for anyone is to listen and grieve with them, and try and be there for them. Romans talks about mourning when others are mourning as well as rejoicing with those who rejoice. Puzzling through for an answer myself I conclude that the world is a messed up place and no-one is exempt from the trials and suffering that are experienced across humanity. I believe God is there and that he can intervene miraculously, but often he does not. Mainly I think he wants human beings to be his agents on earth and that we have a responsibility to act reasonably and look after one another. I think a lot of suffering is down to human greed, injustice or recklessness and that there are consequences we must endure during our time on this planet. Other times I have no answers and I have to trust that God is good.
I don’t think this life is all there is, and I believe heaven will be much better – a place where there is no more pain, suffering, sorrow or death. I believe this has been made available to anyone who chooses a life with God by the sacrifice of Jesus, and I hope that many of the miners in New Zealand will now be there. I am grateful for the hope that other Christian friends I have known who have died before their time have simply ‘gone home early’ – and that they will have found a glorious new home. I know this leaves questions about people who haven’t chosen a life with God – I guess I just need to trust God that he knows all our hearts and will act with justice and mercy. Lord, have mercy and bring all your children home.