Message of Solidarity and Prayers to people of Lebanon

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome back to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!The explosion in Beirut has sent shock-waves across the whole world. A ‘failing’ economy already on its knees has effectively been ‘kicked when it’s down’. It’s not difficult to understand that any efforts to cope with the pandemic have been swept to one side by the blast. Our prayers and hearts go out to the people of Lebanon.So many are refugees from other trouble-spots of the Middle East. The degree of suffering is off the scale. It is one more example of how the disadvantaged are the most vulnerable.‘The Lord hears the cry of the poor’ we are told. Sceptics understandably comment, yes, and the Lord appears not to care. It is a severe challenge to faith in a loving God, a challenge waiting for a response. What response can we offer when prayers seem not enough?I turn to Jesus, looking for an answer. Faced with catastrophe we know the sort of god we want; what God has Jesus given us? And what do we do when the God He gives us is not good enough to meet our needs, whether those needs are massive such as those in Lebanon or personal and private and hidden from the world?The answer Jesus gives is the same for all our cries. His answer begins by being with us in the very depths of the problem. We complain that someone drowning gains little comfort in finding a companion in the water with them, drowning alongside them. We need more than this.
Jesus has given us His teaching. When He was told of the terminal sickness of His friend Lazarus He said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. It is intended for God’s honour’.A strange, unsatisfying response because it does not prevent Lazarus’s continued suffering, the distress of Martha and Mary, nor the ultimate death. He leads those listening to see something new, and to hope for something beyond nature. His answer does not remove the distress or suddenly make everything ok. There is something we must go through to get to a better place, and the God Jesus gives us is with us in the ‘going through’.Survivors will find this hard to take in, but the alternatives don’t offer anything better.
Let us be disciples who struggle to understand, but who persevere in following the Lord through the tragedies of this life. Let Divine charity use us for the benefit of victims and survivors.

With my blessing,

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster.