John 11:35, ‘Jesus wept’ is the shortest verse in the English translation of the bible. Those words come as Jesus is speaking to two grieving sisters as they mourn the death of their brother and Jesus’ friend Lazarus. A natural emotion born out of grief, a demonstration of humanity and compassion.
I dare say that this month many of us have shed a tear or at least ‘had a speck of dust in our eye’ as we have watched the events in Ukraine unfold on our TVs and newspapers. The injustice and suffering we have seen is at times a source of anger, frustration and grief that could bring most of us to tears even though we are not ‘living it’ or don’t have close contacts directly affected by this unjust war.
For me, there have been three things that seem to have made my eyes leak. The first was the overwhelming generosity of people’s response to this crisis. The sheer number of people and places that stepped up to act as collection points for essential items was amazing, the tireless efforts of a small number of individuals who have driven this effort are incredible and the amount of stuff collected was tremendous. The compassion being shown by strangers from all walks of life amazed me.
The second thing that brought a tear was the number of nappies that were amongst the collected items. A chilling reminder of the children that are caught up in this act of aggression.
The third is the overwhelming nature of these events and seemingly how little we can do to change things and yet so many are trying. Some giving more than they can afford others putting their lives on the line.
For those in the Ukraine Jesus words, ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15:13) will have specific relevance as we approach Easter. On Good Friday Christians across the world, will focus on the cross. As God’s own son dies so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life; a sacrifice for all humanity, a time that believers may, like Jesus, weep. Sunday however brings joy as the result of that sacrifice, the victory of resurrection becomes known, weeping ceases and hope for a future returns.
By the time you read this the fighting in Ukraine may have ceased (I pray it will have) but it is clear the humanitarian cost will still be ongoing. For many in the region they will be left looking at their personal sacrifice and wondering where will hope come from. I find hope comes from two places: my fellow humans, so please continue to give via local appeals or financially through the Disasters Emergency Committee (www.dec.org.uk); and my trust in God. For this I simply pray
‘Almighty God, we pray for the continuing situation within Ukraine. We pray for those who live in fear, that you may grant them peace. Lord, we ask that you raise up peacemakers on all sides, that war and violence might end and hope return. Amen’.