As I approached the roundabout I could see the helicopter through the top of my windscreen. It was hovering, purposefully, keeping a keen eye on something yet unseen by me. I next caught sight of the police bikes. Two of them, both with their riders with their hands in the air bringing the oncoming traffic to a halt. I sat in my car, waiting, and with the other drivers around me wondered what was going on.
Would there be a glimpse of someone famous? A dignitary, perhaps royalty, or a senior politician maybe
The sirens came next and more police bikes sped through the gap before fast-response cars followed. It was then that I saw the first hearse. It took the roundabout at speed, and was followed in quick succession by eight more. With only a length between them it was like watching an ominous race.
They sped off followed by more chase cars, all under the eyes of the men in the sky above.
9 hearses; 9 coffins. 9 of the victims from the Tunisia beach attack. I was suddenly only a few feet away from this shocking episode of evil.
One moment the victims were holidaying on a beach and now under comprehensive escort they were travelling the A40 at record pace. The hearses caught me by surprise. But I remember thinking that no one would have been more surprised than the victims themselves.
In a world where atrocities seem to take place at an alarming rate, the horror of evil actions remains shocking when observed by those near to them.
We all feel the wrongness of these situations. We think of the pain of those caught up in the events. We mourn.
When the immediate grief subsides, those caught up in suffering move from looking for comfort to looking for answers. ‘Why?’ And, ‘how?’ And, ‘could it have been prevented?’ And so on.
In this tragedy – as in many – there are tales of heroism. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The acts of evil, punctuated with humanity’s finest qualities. The good right alongside the bad.
Humanity, it would seem, has the capacity for incredible acts of love and at the same time the capacity for incredible acts of violence.
Everyone who lives has to face the suffering of this world. It is a worldwide problem; it is a human problem.
What we believe about the reality of the world goes a long way to how we answer the problems that we face. Diagnosing the malady correctly is the first step on the road to health.
The Christian understands the world to be full of both happiness and suffering. Good alongside evil. Human beings have the ability to create, bring life, love well, and serve others. But at the very same time the heart of humanity, of each one of us, has been corrupted and all kinds of wrong happen to us, stay with us, and come out of us.
The Bible says that humans are valuable because they are made by a loving God. They are not a random collection of atoms. We are not accidents. And like tarnished silver, our value is not lost when our appearance has been marred.
At the very same time the Bible does not shy away from the reality of evil. Its pages are full of brokenness and hurting people.
And the God of the Bible did not remain distant from the suffering of the world, but entered into it and suffered himself.
This world, we know, is far from perfect. So how do we fix what is broken? Is it more knowledge? Is it a greater collective human effort? We will do anything: work harder, sacrifice more etc. Human history is full of marvellous efforts to this end but while they may have bandaged some wounds, they have not brought lasting health.
We have tried so much and we are left collectively exasperated and worn out. Who or what can we trust to bring us hope?
The problems that we face have proven to be huge. The answers that we require will need to be bigger still.
When we have exhausted the search for answers from within perhaps we should turn to answers from afar and when we do we can look, searchingly, at the life of a man who lived 2,000 years ago who suffered greatly for the people he loved and then astonishingly, after a brutal death, was raised to life once more. Invasive resurrection power at once affirms the value of human beings and offers a hope through a power that beats death and all its friends.
It’s preposterous. It’s extravagant. It’s utterly different. But isn’t this exactly the sort of solution we need for the problems of the world today? When all that is obvious to us has been tried perhaps it’s time to look beyond our own horizons. Perhaps we should consider placing our hope in our Maker who knows our blueprint, understands our weaknesses and our pain, and offers a plan for our redemption.
This article first appeared in the September/October edition of Sorted Magazine.