Tue, 11/09/2012 - 10:28 -- James Oakley

On Friday night, there was a sad fire at our end of Kemsing Village. A stack of 500 hay bales caught fire - it helps nobody to speculate whether this was deliberate or accidental, although invariably people start to speculate and everyone has a theory.

What was good, though, was that nobody got hurt, and no property was damaged except for the part of the field the bales were in. That's serious enough - those bales were due to be taken away and sold just a little while after the fire, so the loss of the bales still affects someone's livelihood. It could, however, have been a lot worse.

On Saturday morning, I left a comment on someone's Facebook wall post. People were discussing the fire, and expressing amazement that it was still burning 12 hours later - albeit the fire brigade were letting it burn out under controlled conditions. Part of the comment I left read like this: “thankfully, given the weather we've had, it didn't spread.”

I just wrote that, without thinking anything of it. The word "thankfully", in a sentence like that, is a natural word to use. And yet, we can only be thankful for something if there is someone responsible for it. That throw-away word presupposes that there is somebody I should be thanking that the fire had not spread more than it did. I can't thank the wind conditions - they're not personal. I could thank the fire brigade, and indeed we probably should thank them if we get the chance. Yet a sentence like that doesn't have the fire brigade in mind when it's said.

No - that particular figure of speech only makes sense if there is a God who can restrain the damage caused by an event like that. So we thank God for preventing things from being any worse than they already were. Of course, as soon as one says that, the question is raised as to why a God who is powerful enough to restrain a fire lets it happen at all. A moment's thought, and it's clear those questions would never be easy: Would we want God forceibly to seal our mouths the moment we are about to say something untruthful or unkind?

But we mustn't let those hard questions stop us from thanking God. If those questions allow us to stop thinking that God has a restraining hand, we have to adopt the alternative - that God is too weak to to prevent bad things from happening. That is a far worse universe to live in - we could never be sure that the world would end happily.

So let's use that lovely word more often: "thankfully". And let's let it be a true echo of the thankfulness in our hearts towards the God who works all things for the good of those who love him, even if we don't always understand his ways.

Blog Category: 

Add new comment

Additional Terms