Where Was God?

No. 46 - 06th August 2017

Last Sunday we were watching the commemorations to mark one hundred years since the start of the Battle of Passchendaele. It was beautifully done, with scenes from the battle and short clips from soldiers who had actually been there on the battle field. It was all projected onto the walls and tower of the historic Cloth Hall in the Market Square in Ypres. I found it quite moving and really well produced, but this sanitized version of events, conveyed very little of what it must really have been like.

I was only two years old when the Second World War ended, so I have no memory of it, and very little understanding of what it must have been like to be there in the midst of battle. I would imagine that to get some idea of it, you would have to watch today’s pictures from Raqqa and Aleppo. To see whole sections of a city completely flattened with not a single house left intact. It’s like something out of Dante’s Inferno. The reality must have been utterly appalling. There was many a man left mentally, physically and emotionally scarred for the rest of his life as a result of what happened during that battle. What a terrible thing war is.

For the last hundred years, people have been quite rightly asking, “Where was God in all this?” Was he in the Allied trenches, or the German trenches? Or worse still, was he safe in his heaven keeping well away from the carnage. Is there really anything meaningful that I can say about it? I think if God was true to form, then he was there. To my mind, I see him hanging on the barbed wire in the middle of no-man’s land, a bullet in his side and the blood dripping from his hands and feet. I can almost hear him screaming at both sides to be reconciled to each other. And then those sad eyes, boring into the very soul of each individual, challenging them to be reconciled to him. The heroic figure of a God who sacrificed himself for the anger, and the hatred and the bitterness of Passchendaele. For me, that’s where God was at Passchendaele, and every tragic battle that has been fought around the world, before or since. This desire to suppress and control other human beings by force, it doesn’t come from God. That’s all our doing. But, I’m still truly grateful for the men and women who had to die to defend our nation from tyranny.

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