The Gift of Life and the Presence of God
Rebekah Sears, Former Intern, African Enterprise (Rwanda)
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Like many people across the country and around the world, I had the news of the Chile miners’ long rescue playing in the background last Wednesday. This story had been in the news for almost 10 weeks now, one of those stories that kind of gives you the creeps when you first hear it…the thought of being trapped in a mine, hundreds of metres below the surface of the earth for weeks on end. How awful it must have been for those men and their families!
But on Wednesday, one by one, the miners were set free, each one coming back to the surface with cheers and chanting from the crowd, and tears of joy and hugs from waiting relatives and loved ones. I found myself crying throughout many of the reunions, caught up in the joy and utter relief on the faces of the miners, their families and the people watching.
What was it that struck me so much? I’m not sure exactly, but I think it had something to do with the uniqueness of every reunion, and the joy that was so evident for every single life that was saved. I’ve done much of my academic and other work looking at big numbers: 6 million Jews, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, 1000s upon 1000s of victims of sexual assault in the DRC and Sudan, the almost 9 million children who die every year as a result of malnutrition and other preventable diseases. These numbers eat away at me, but what really gets to me are the individual stories and memoirs. The life of Elie Wiesel, who managed not to be among the 6 million but not without immeasurable suffering; working with people in Rwanda who had lost most of their families in the Genocide, but still believed in reconciliation; meeting with a survivor of multiple instances of brutal sexual assault. Every life in every statistic is precious and has a story.
Numbers-wise 33 miners does not compare with some of worst tragedies of our history, and also contemporary circumstances affecting thousands in Pakistan, Haiti, or the DR Congo. BUT, every one of the lives that was saved is just that- a life. Something that is precious and irreplaceable...not convinced: just ask the parents, spouses, children or friends of any of the miners rescued in Chile-or ask God.
Watching the commentary on the Internet, of course a debate started about the role of God in this whole situation. People were praising God for the lives of the miners, and then the comments started about how God had nothing to do with this. Or if God did have a role, He was also responsible for causing the collapse, which confuses the situation even more. Ok, I can see where these comments are coming from...but was God really absent? What about the hope of the miners?
I’ve been trying to figure out the role of God and the actions of God in situations like this for most of my life. I don’t think there will ever be an easy explanation, but I do think there is an easy answer (if that makes any sense). Several of the miners, upon coming out of the “capsule” that brought them to the surface bowed on their knees and called out praises to God even before they embraced their families, many of them clutching onto Bibles. That’s where they placed their hope and found real peace.
One of the most quoted Psalms in the world, Psalm 23, says “Though I walk through the VALLEY of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and staff they comfort me.” Also Psalm 139 asks, “Where can I flee from your Spirit? Where can I go from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there, if I make my bed in the DEPTHS you are there.” Then the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor DEPTH, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!”
I’m not sure how God does intervene, but I know He does, and one of the ways is through peace and presence. Maybe you can see it in the joy of the miners and their families, or the cheers from the crowd after each person was brought to the surface. Maybe it was in the Bibles that they were clutching, the 33 Bibles that one of the miners arranged to have sent down during their time underground. Or maybe it was in the bold words of one particular miner who said, “I held onto God's hand, the best hand, and at no point in time did I doubt that God wouldn't get me out of there!” Peace, hope, joy, love- the presence of God. I’ve felt the presence of God in my own hard times, and dark places (though they in no way compare to the experiences of these miners!) and I have seen His love and felt His peace in ways I cannot describe, and no one can take that away from me. And that goes for anyone who has experienced the love of Christ.
So in closing I will say Praise God for all of the lives saved in Chile last week. May it be an encouragement to everyone as to how precious each life is and the people we share it with, and may we continue to find hope in the world, one day and one life at a time.
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