Disasters and Blessings

St. Michael’s Vicarage

Dear People of Alnwick,

Following hard on the heels of all the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, we are now beginning to get stark warnings of the havoc that Hurricane Maria is likely to bring.

As I write this letter, predictions are that Maria will move roughly along the same path as Irma, badly affecting many of the Caribbean islands and parts of the US once again.

Neighbourhoods have been flattened, lives have been lost, and one correspondent described the damage as “something you see in images from the First World War”.

I am not qualified to explain, nor do I understand fully, all the likely causes of these natural disasters but the one thing we know for certain is that the devastation which they leave behind will create a legacy from which some people will take years to recover – long after physical restitution is made.

This sort of news – particularly when one terrible experience is followed by another in such quick succession – made me think how fortunate we are in this part of God’s world and, more particularly, how, as we pray and do what we can to support those in such adverse situations, we should remind ourselves of our basic responsibility to give thanks for all the good things we receive in this life.

By this I do not mean that we should simply be relieved that such awful things have not happened to us but, rather, to look at our lives each day and realise, despite the odd ache or pain, despite a few minor irritations that ‘things have not gone our way’, we do indeed have so much to be thankful for.

At each baptism service the candidate is presented with a lighted candle and all who are gathered say:

“Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.”

Just imagine, if every baptised person took that request seriously, what a different place our world might be.

Of course it would not prevent natural disaster – but a world filled with gratitude for all that God has given us would go a long way to counteract the negativity of a ‘glass-half-empty’ attitude.

There is no avoiding the fact that life can be complicated at times. Sometimes this is of our own making and sometimes we can merely be ‘victims’, but hearing one of the women of Barbuda, who was left only with the clothes in which she stood, speak with faith and massive hope following her life being turned upside down made me realise that many of us (myself included) need to reassess how good God has been to us and shine as lights in his world.

Although the words may seem trite amongst all that has happened in our world of late, there is a very simple message in an old hymn which might be worthy of reflection as we pray for the victims of Irma and Maria and consider how blessed we are.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done,
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

With every blessing,


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