By now the 21 hostages taken from Sipadan Island by the Abu Sayyaf would have gone through 19+ days of captivity. Hostages go through well documented phases depending on how long they are in captivity – shock, denial, anger, depression, acceptance, and even identification and compliance with their captors. We can also imagine that terror and fear would be constant companions.
How did you respond to the whole affair? I suspect that most of us would have breathed a sigh of relief that we were not holidaying on Sipadan that Easter weekend. Some of us might have felt the unfairness of it all. After all, the hostages were merely innocent tourists, and folks doing their duties like the resort employees, the Wildlife Department workers and the policeman. Some of us would have been moved to prayer. But with passing of time means this issue will hold less and less of our attention.
Its so unfair. You are an innocent tourist one day, you are a hostage of terror the next, constantly fearing for your life on a terror ride that seems to have no end. Reminds me of the story of Joseph. He was a favoured son one day, a slave the next, betrayed by his own flesh and blood. Indeed, if you look hard enough, you will see that such horrendous, unfair reversal of fortunes happen all the time.
What should be our perspective to such tragedies?
1. Tragedies remind us of the falleness of the world.
There is something wrong with our world. There is something drastically wrong with humankind. The absence of such dastardly acts would only lull us into thinking that everything is ok with the human race. It is not. Tragedies can and have touched all of us. They remind us of the reality of sin.
2. God is actively turning evil into good.
At a much later phase of his life, Joseph could look back at his betrayal by his brothers and say,”As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil” (Genesis 50:20 NLT). We must never trivialize tragedy and evil. Indeed we should do what we can to help those afflicted by tragedy. However,the only real hope we have is in a God who works all things for good.
3. God’s redemptive activity may not be always obvious.
Joseph was only able to make the above assessment oh his personal tragedies in the last chapter of Genesis. God would have seemed to have failed him or have deserted him in his many travails. There will be times when evil seems to have won the day and the innocent suffer. That is why the resurrection of Jesus and stories like Josephs’ are so important. They remind us of the ultimate triumph of God and good.
4. Therefore we continue to actively trust God even when unfair tragedies seem to rule the world.
Only an active faith in Christ can ward off apathy and cynicism. Only active faith in Christ can see us through our own tragedies. Only active faith in Christ can energise us to help the victims of tragedies.
Let us not grow weary in doing good. Even if it is just to commit ourselves to pray for the victims of terror. There are many to be found all over the world. I suspect many of us can and should do more than pray. Above all, let us continue to grow strong in our faith. Only if we are absolutely sure of the reality and victory of God can we find the necessary anchors for our life. Only if we are securely anchored can we rescue others, and remain firm in the midst of our own storms.