Like so many people I have been looking with a breaking heart at the images of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I don’t understand why it is happening. I can’t begin to understand how it feels to be in a country as the leader of another country uses force to fulfil his ambitions and impose his will.
I am conscious that what I am about to write may seem trite or even patronising in the context of the suffering, death and destruction that is being inflicted on the Ukrainian people and land, but I have found it helpful and share it here in case you do.
As I have seen images tanks crushing cars and shelling residential apartment blocks; footage of millions of displaced people fleeing for their lives and hear of people struggling to survive without food, water or power in cities that are under siege I have asked myself, “Where’s God?”
What I think I am asking is “Why isn’t he stopping this?” And I don’t have a fully formed answer to that, so I go back to the first question: “Where’s God?” And this is a partial answer:
He’s in the underground bunkers with those sheltering from shelling and air attacks, experiencing the fear and anxiety.
He’s in the defensive lines of frightened Ukrainians – soldiers and conscripted men – knowing how indignant they are at the invasion and how public statements of bravery may mask dread of injury or death.
He’s on the trains and in the queues of the millions of displaced people fleeing for their lives, sharing their terror and the pain of separation from loved ones.
He’s in the refugee centres and temporary shelters being set up across the neighbouring countries – seen in the acts of sacrificial love and unconditional welcome for those who have nothing but the clothes they stand in.
He’s in the Russian tanks with soldiers who are following orders they may not understand or agree with – feeling their conflicted nature. He is also with those who believe they are doing their patriotic duty and not expressing any doubts.
He’s with the Russian people who are being fed disinformation and propaganda and not being allowed to see or hear the truth – refusing to blame them for believing the lies they have been told by their leaders.
And he’s even in the Kremlin – whispering words of peace in the ears of those who have ordered war.
He’s everywhere. The difference may be whether or not individuals are open to experiencing his presence, listening to his voice and responding to his prompting, receiving the comfort of his Spirit. Because he has given us freedom to choose whether or not to be open to him he won’t force anyone, but he won’t stop whispering, being present by his Spirit, and loving. And that may be part of the answer to the second question – do we listen and respond to God’s prompting or have we closed ourselves to him?