Searching and Sifting
written by Rev Gary Heard

The task facing emergency teams following any major disaster is a long and arduous one. The immediate challenges is to locate those who are trapped alive, and work to free them. They sift and search through the wreckage with all means at their disposal in the hope of aiding the injured and trapped before the elements claim them. In the midst of devastation they search systematically in the hope of a miracle. The task is physical, emotional and spiritual in nature, dealing with their own sense of shock amidst the challenge of the task. Questions of meaning are pushed to the background behind the immediate purpose of rescuing the injured.

This search for life in the midst of tragedy is echoed through the Psalms. People overwhelmed by a sense of loss and anger turn their thoughts to searching for God. “In the day of my trouble,” says the Psalmist, “I seek for God”, depicting a search through the rubble. The expressions of anger and frustration in response to the personal tragedy is expressed in all its crudity – unrefined, raw and real. “I think of God and I moan… Has God’s love gone forever?” The Psalmist embarks upon his own search for life in the midst of tragedy: the life of God, the source of life itself. What is there to live for? Does my trust in God count for anything in the midst of such tragedy.

In our anger, we are tempted to turn away from God – to reject our understandings of the place of the divine in the midst of life. It is in one sense easier to walk away rather than stand and sift through the rubble, to undertake the agonising search for life and hope in the wake of disaster. But rescue workers push on, moving, digging, sifting… rescuing those who would otherwise perish. Life in the midst of disaster.

The mess remains unless we take the time to search it, reorganise it, remove it. There is a cost to walking away, just as there is a cost to sifting. The journey of discipleship and faith often brings us to collapsed cities and monuments, under the ruins of which are buried our hopes, our dreams, our plans and ideals. Where was God when these tragedies befell? The Psalmist often found God in the rubble – that through the sifting, God was to be found. Through picking up the pieces and addressing the questions they brought, their faith in God gained new depth, new perspective. Old notions were required to be left behind, new life emerging from the ground.

In this Lenten period, we are invited to remove some of that rubble in a fresh search for the divine, in the quest to being more as God intended us to be. It can be a painful quest, and the fruit is not always evident. But it remains an essential one if we are to find life.

March 21, 2004
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