'It was such an ordinary day.' How many stories of tragedy start with that? A short drive can end traumatically with an accident. Or a trip, a fall, and a life-changing injury. Over the weekend a visit to the shops was the mundane last act of those whose destination was a mall in Nairobi and a mass shooting. Attendance at a church in Peshawar, Pakistan ended in a massacre.
What helpful thoughts can we conjure up in the light of such appalling evil? What words spring to mind? Vengeance? Justice? Anger?
I'd hope we might take a more detached view but I really don't know. Of course it will make a big difference if you are affected personally.
In the Bible an Old Testament story is about a man called Job, happy and wealthy. We are shown a conversation between God and The Devil. Job knows nothing of this. God proudly exclaims how faithful Job is. The Devil says, in effect, that this is because Job 'has it all'. 'Were he to experience hardship he would not continue to worship you' taunts the Devil.
Cue incredible suffering.
Eventually Job has a conversation with God. He gets no answer to his questions, just more questions.
If anyone gives you an easy answer to the question of suffering walk away. They are bogus. There are none. Neither do I believe God is having a wager with the devil about the faithfulness of his servants. But he may as well be for all we know.
A Job's comforter is someone who offers unhelpful advice at a time of difficulty. In the story, the best thing the comforters actually offered was silence whilst keeping Job company. For those who are suffering today? Maybe there's a lesson for us there.