As I started writing this article, my wife Kerry and I were amongst the tens of thousands of Brits stranded overseas as a result of the ash cloud from the Iceland volcano. This was inconvenient for one or two days, but for the length of time it threatened to carry on, it could have been a lot more than that. Just about every aspect of our national life could heave been affected in one way or another by the closure of UK airspace, and one of the most unsettling things about these events is that they are completely out of our control.
When things are running relatively smoothly, we can have a sense that we are in control and we can look forward to a settled existence where we work, rest and play to our heart's content, providing for and enjoying our families, hoping for what the next new day will bring.
But when things happen that are beyond our ability to control, our sense that we are in charge of life falters and shows itself to be a bit of an illusion.
Personal events like serious illness or financial hardship, or more wide reaching events like war, natural disasters or even the ash-cloud, can quickly rob us of our security, unless our security is in something other than ourselves and the world around us.
A wise man once said that the only constant thing is change, and another added that there are actually two certainties in life: death and taxes. Maybe a little pessimistic, but both hint at the same uncomfortable truth - we are not masters of our own destinies, and it does not take much to shake our lives up and challenge where our security lies. We should not really be surprised when our world shakes and falls apart a bit - it seems to happen to every generation and to everyone.
There is a modern myth that we in the West are immune from the trials that we see in the rest of the world. We are often so entertained by our gadgets and mass media, we can be in danger of avoiding the truth that, at times, life is tough but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The Christian faith has some good news for us in all this: there is something permanent that we can trust in, the fact that God loves us unconditionally and cares for us deeply. If we let him, he will walk with us through the difficult times of life. He will not necessarily take the hardships away, nor does he want us to live in denial of the negative emotions and pain that accompany our struggles, but he will share his compassion and mercy with us, encourage us and strengthen us, and lead us in the best way to walk through our trials.
The Good Book has much to say on the subject of suffering and hardship, and I'd like to share some things from there that many people have found helpful: Firstly, God says he will comfort us in our troubles so we can comfort others with the same comfort we've received. In other words, through meeting God in our own trials we can help others in theirs.
The Bible also says that God allows tough times to build patience, perseverance and the character of his son Jesus in us. And this is not just stoicism, but a hope based on God's active work in the hearts and lives of those who rely on him. In fact God is so positive about this that the Bible says we are to rejoice when we encounter all kinds of trials, because of the hope of the good that will come.
Finally, there is a verse that says 'weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.' Troubles will come but they will not last forever. God is merciful, if we put our trust in him he will not let us down, he'll take us through our trials and bring us out into a better place with a stronger character and a deeper compassion for others who go through their own troubles.
This article was originally published in the Plymouth Shopper, a group of 7 localised community newspapers produced by Cornerstone Vision, reaching 62,000 homes every month in Plymouth. Each edition carries positive news stories and features, and provides local businesses, community groups and organisations with a very localised media platform to reach their own area.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
Chris and Kerry speak at a number of national conferences on Christian lifestyle, marriage and culture.