It’s now been nearly 5 weeks since 22 February 2011. I’m already reading stories of frustration and anger at the length of time it’s taking to get things back up and running again, even restoring essential services to some areas, and making the CBD sufficiently safe for people to be able to retrieve their property. The reality is that this is going to take longer than weeks, or even months. I suspect it will take years to get our lives back into a semblance of normal.
It’s the same emotionally – it seems like I’m still going over the same ground I was last week. So I apologise to my readers outside of Christchurch if you’re finding this getting a bit boring. Listening to people in Christchurch I’m hearing that there are a lot of people still finding their way through the grief and trauma, and everyone’s at a different stage in trying to make sense of it all and put the emotional pieces back together again.
As western Christians, it’s easy to find God in the blessings and in the good times. It’s a lot harder to find God in the tragedies, grief, trauma and darkness. I’ve heard some people describe their times of depression as feeling separated from God, and they feel like they’ve done something wrong to lose his blessing.
I think God is bigger than just the good things “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). God is still part of these dark times, even if we feel cut off and abandoned by Him. The Psalms are filled with prayers where the writer gives voice to that despair. Just two examples:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Not to mention the entire books of Job and Lamentations.
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
After I’d attempted to draft the bulk of this post, the preacher at Church this morning spoke on Laments (Thank you John, if you’re reading this). He said that true worship is not just leaving our troubles at the door and putting on a “happy-clappy” face, but is when we give our whole heart, grief and all, to God. The expressions of grief and pain and despair are part of deeper, truer, more honest worship.
Listening to the feedback of the congregation, at this time most of us are still feeling a lot of this, and we’re all at different points in the process of working through the feelings of shock, grief, fear, and agony. One person described seeing the ruins of the Christchurch Cathedral as feeling like “my heart was being ripped out”.
It’s going to be a long slow process to heal and rebuild, simply because there is so much healing and rebuilding to do. However, in a decade from now Christchurch will be one of the strongest, safest, modern and most beautiful cities in New Zealand.
As I look around at the people in our community, our congregations, I know that our city will also have Churches of Christians who have a stronger, deeper and more honestly real faith for having come through this time together. We will find God in the middle of pain, emptiness and grief.