My brother, with whom I have not had contact for a while, rang me the other day. He told me about an event that he’d witnessed whilst on holiday in Turkey. He had visited what legend says was the home and resting place of Mary, the mother of Jesus, which has now been converted into a church in Ephesus.
He told me that all of the vegetation and forestation around the church had been destroyed by a forest fire, all bar one tree next to the church which had been partially burnt about 3 feet from the ground and then, in his words, had miraculously survived unharmed. My brother wanted to know why?
Before I could reply, he then wanted to know “Why, if there is a great God up there, does he allow little children to suffer and to die?” And then went on to say, “and don’t blame other people for the suffering, because if God was good he would stop it all”. This is a typical question that I often have to face in my ministry.
I trod cautiously, explaining briefly that God has given us the freedom of choice and if He were to remove the evil in the world, He would have to remove the freedom we have of choosing between being good or being evil. If God took away our freedom of choice, what would we be left with? As my brother said, “not very much”. But his reply shocked me, because he then said “Ok, that answer will do for me”. I was prepared for a long drawn out debate, but he simply accepted what I had told him. I realise that God touched my brother in Ephesus, he didn’t understand what was happening, but he felt the presence of God and he was changed. He simply accepted.
We read in the Bible that when Jesus said to the disciples, “Come follow me”, they stopped what they were doing and without question, followed him. I pray that my brother and you too can leave your past behind and accept God’s presence and hopefully follow Christ the way those disciples did.