When Bad Things Happen

Sep 04, 2018

When Bad Things Happen

By Mary Mortenson, Executive Director, Prison Congregations of America


In spite of living in a creation with beautiful, gifted, and loving people, bad things happen.  Of course, we are all aware of the natural disasters – fires and floods – that are evidence of our ever-sickening planet.  We can argue about causes and responsibility, but the reality is that people have lost their homes, their livelihoods, their health and sometimes their loved ones to these terrible occurrences. 

In the midst of life, there is death.  The news has been full of tributes for Aretha Franklin and Senator John McCain; under the news are stories of people who are hurting as they, like many of us, seek to imagine life without a loved one. 

And, of course, there is illness.  I’m thinking about all of this right now, because a friend I love very much is struggling with the not-yet fully diagnosed mental illness of a loved one.  All who are involved are confused and frightened, as the demon of this illness envelopes this child of God. 

Where is God in all of this?  Where is the church?  First of all, as sure as I type these words I know that God in no way has caused natural disasters, death, and illness to punish us or to teach us some sort of lesson, for the God I worship and serve is not that cruel.  However, I do believe that God is there in all the flames and floods and grief and fear and disease.  How do we know that God is ever-present in those and all circumstances?  Sometimes we simply feel the Spirit and we know, but sometimes – often, for me – the presence of God comes from the words or actions of another human being.  That’s where the church comes in.  As the church, it is our call to be the hands of God when life is horrible.  It is, for us, the church, to stand in solidarity, to share funds, to actually get down and get our hands dirty, or to simply sit with another – to be a ministry of presence.  Thank God that the church – healthy, inclusive and mature – is out in this sometimes awful world – on both sides of the prison gate. That reality brings hope – for me, and I hope for you.


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