“Very good” in troubled times

Saturday morning

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. This is what Genesis tells us when God had created heaven and earth.

God is celebrating the goodness of all creation. Is this still true?

Is this “very good” still there in these troubled times? Where is it in the horror when a mother has to watch her children being killed by soldiers?

When women are raped, when terrorists attack villages? Sometimes this “very good” seems to sink back and disappear into deep darkness.

In Mennonite World Conference, I serve as a deacon. We visit people to stand with them to say that the global body of the church is here with you. We visit where the church celebrates in joy, like when a new church building is opened. We visit people in suffering, like in DR Congo, in Burkina Faso. And I have discovered: Yes, the beauty of God is still there dwelling here among us in these dark hours.

In DR Congo, an MWC Deacons delegation visited some of the churches that had opened their homes to displaced people fleeing from the war zones in the east. The visitors listened to stories of unimaginable horror, to women who had been forced to watch their husbands and children killed, to women who been raped and had barely survived. Many of them just sat silent, unable to tell what had happened to them.

As a visitor, what words can you find to comfort? The visitors often just sat, wept, helpless, left without words to respond.

And it was these women who found the strength and words to comfort their visitors left speechless when faced with these horrors. These women were standing alongside, comforting those who came to comfort them. I see the beauty of God the Creator in them in this deep embrace. The “very good” of God shines up out of all this darkness.

We visit each other like the friends of Job came to visit him in his sorrow. They came and sat in silence with him for seven days and seven nights. Sat with him in his darkness. They sat with Job who struggled to find the justice of God, struggled to find a God he can love.

The word deacon originally means ‘acting in the place of the one who sends you.’ A deacon is the presence of the one who sends the deacon. Close to those special envoys are the angels who bring with them the presence of God, bringing to light the “very good” of creation. Yes, there were angels present in these visits in the Congo. I hope sometimes they entered with the deacons. But in those moments of speechless tears, as they who had suffered terrible violence comforted their visitors – these women were the angels. In their faces, I saw the goodness of God shining out of darkness. We had been visiting in houses of angels.

So let us enter these houses of angels in this broken world, sit with them in sorrow, silently, sometimes with tears, and then, maybe much later, even with shouts of joy. Let us celebrate the goodness of God visiting among us.

—Jürg Bräker serves as general secretary of Konferenz der Mennoniten der Schweiz/Conférence Mennonite Suisse (the Swiss Mennonite conference) and as elder and theologian for Mennoniten Gemeinde Bern (Alttäufer). He also serves on the MWC Deacons Commission (2015-2022).

This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier October 2022.

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