One fine morning, I was taking a few pictures by the Mersey, when an elderly couple walked up to me and began a friendly socially-distanced chat. It all went well until they learned that I was a Port Chaplain. All of a sudden, the elderly gentleman asked, “what do you tell the seafarers about God during a pandemic? Why did God allow this?” I was stunned at that question for a few moments – it was just fired at me when I least expected it. But would you believe it if I told you that a Roman Catholic seafarer asked me the same question on that very afternoon?
I have had many interesting conversations with seafarers last month – Azad, AJ, Jeno, Renate, Dan, Rio and George are just a few memorable ones. As lockdown 3.0 set in, seafarers were visibly frustrated. Invariably, when I try to share the gospel, and the seafarers open up the topic of frustration, suffering and pain, it becomes quite a challenging task to pray at the end of our conversations.
A famous quote by C.S.Lewis comes to mind:
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Well, we know that God is not a killjoy – there is no injustice in God (Romans 9:14). We also know that God does not cause us to sin (James 1:13). What Scripture clearly teaches is that suffering and pain are a direct result of the fall – either experienced by all men through natural disasters brought about
by a fallen world, or deliberated by the sinful deeds of fallen men. However, God, in His providence, uses the workings of this fallen world to bring His will and purpose to fruition. There are but two ends to human pain and suffering, both that bring God glory: God’s wrath is poured out on the unrepentant, the impenitent, and the rebellious (Romans 1:18-23), and His disciplining sanctifies the repentant, the penitent, and the obedient (Hebrews 12:4-11). And, like we know that frost bites have done their real damage when the hurting stops, we also know when God “gives them over” to their sinful passions that His “megaphone” now blares on deafened ears! It is horrifying to learn that God’s patience will come to an end (Romans 2:4-5). Yet, a world so steeped in sin will never fully give ear to a loving God calling sinners to repentance, even during a pandemic. It is, indeed, a fearful thing to fall in the hands of the living God! (Hebrews 10:31).
Are you a seafarer reading this? When you are alarmed at the virulence of this pandemic’s second wave, when the silence is deafening at the thought of death, will you give ear to the loving call of a gracious God? Will you turn now to God, repent of your sins and cry out, “here I am a hopeless sinner with no plea to a favour, but only a plea for mercy”? Take heart, for there is hope even for the chief of sinners. Remember, Jesus Christ suffered, not just the physical pain and shame of the Roman cross, but also the wrath of a Holy God, so that whoever believes that God punished their sins in Jesus are granted eternal life in Heaven. Respond to God’s call now!