What do you do when you have a catastrophe?

Would a catastrophe destroy your happiness forever?

I have written several blogs about happiness. Such as How much happiness can money buy.  Some people want to know if anything I have said would be any use in the face of a catastrophe. I am not thinking of the everyday sort of thing that makes some people overreact (especially journalists in a quiet month) such as:

  • A festival being cancelled
  • A wet bank holiday
  • An increase in VAT
  • Losing the car keys

I mean the big stuff like the Grenfell fire, the Manchester bomb, floods in Africa. At a personal level too, a serious accident or illness, or the loss of someone you love, can be very hard to deal with. Such things make most of my previous suggestions seem trite. Remember?

  • ‘Be yourself’
  • ‘Count your blessings’
  • ‘Do good to someone’
  • ‘Enjoy the good things around you’

Does this make these things wrong? Part of the problem is that almost anything you say to someone at a time like that is going to sound trite. It is unlikely that it will be original. An expression becomes a cliche through being used a lot. It is used a lot because so many people find it helpful.

However useless so much advice may be, it can not be right for anyone to just give in and be bitter for the rest of his or her life.

How have I coped with catastrophes?

I have so far been  relatively fortunate and am in no position to advise others from my own experience. Fortunately, I don’t have to. I can draw on the experience of lots of people. There is no simple answer that works every time. Different people find different ways of coping.

Are you just putting on a brave mask in response to a catastrophe?
Are you just putting on a brave mask in response to a catastrophe?
Does religion help deal with a catastrophe?

Research does show that for many religion is a help. Prayer, meditation, or the love that comes from other members of your church, mosque, synagogue or whatever. But let us be honest. It is not always so. Some people give up their faith when bad things happen, blaming God. Similarly, some people are glad of their friends in times of trouble, but others turn against their friends.

For those for whom no religion seems to be the answer, the ones who cope best with catastrophe are often the ones with some sort of philosophy to fall back on. This may be an organised philosophy or just a way of looking at life. A simple maxim to call on. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ or ‘things are never as bad as they look’, for instance. It is good to have one ready in case you need it.

How one man coped with a real catastrophe

I have been reading the letters and diaries of my father-in-law, including those written when he was a prisoner of war after being wounded at Monte Cassino. His resilience and optimism, his ability to make light of his troubles, his sympathy for those worse off than himself (!) make me feel ashamed. What kept him going? I have not found any mentio of prayer of faith, although I need to study his writings a bit more, but I think it was the hope that our side would win in the end. When I have finished studying these documents, I intend to turn them into a book. There is a story that needs to be told.

What about you?

To all the factors making for happiness, add something you can call upon in the event of a catastrophe. Most of us have to face one sometime.

What’s so special about Sundays?

Some people find Sundays difficult.

I met a woman the other day who no longer goes to church because her husband works away from home all week, so their Saturdays and Sundays are precious. She does however get involved with other activities run by her local church, such as fundraisers and social events. I was pleased. I hope others regard her as a member of their church.

Am I ignoring what the Bible says about Sundays?

I know keeping the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments and that the early church used to meet on the first day of the week, meaning Sundays. I also know Jesus said “The Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath“. The Christian life is not about fitting in with someone else’s timetable. It is about faith, love, truth and your relationship with God and with other people. Those things ought to be part of all of our lives, 24/7.

Let’s be realistic

Nowadays, when so many of us have different lifestyles and commitments, I hope all churches will make it easier for people to get involved any time they can. Let’s not get obsessed with worshiping on Sundays. Let’s have more midday and evening services in the week, and activities that go on all the time. The Sabbath was given to save people having to work seven days a week. Doctors recommend at least one day off in seven. The Sabbath was a liberation, we should not let it be a straightjacket.

If you find Christianity difficult, you may find some help in my book How to Cope with the Church. https://www.createspace.com/6534903    Also on  Kindle ASIN: B01LZ53GBS


Who controls the future? Do we have free-will or is it all fixed?

Do you believe in free-will?

I have had an interesting comment on a recent blog, Has the sermon had its day?  It (The comment, not the blog) raises the question of whether all in life, and especially in death, is predetermined or whether we have free-will and whether the answer proves or disproves the existence of God. I have put the comment and my reply below. For those of you who find this debate irrelevant, I will say something more down-to-earth in my next blog.

The comment.

John, how can we have free will and an omnipotent God? If this life is a test to gain entry to a heavenly afterlife then an omnipotent God would know the results before the entrant sat down to take the test.

Conversely, if we have free will then there can be no God as we know him because he cannot know the results before the entrant sits the test. Anything short of an all-knowing, all-powerful God really cannot be considered a god at all.

If there’s a preacher out their who can break the paradox, then the sermon lives on. If not, the sermon is dead, as is religion.


Dice - is everything down to chance rather than free-will?
Dice – is everything down to chance rather than free-will?

My reply.

Hi Karl,
The question you raise is one which has taxed greater minds than mine down the ages. Among Protestants, John Calvin, the reformer, writing in the 16th century, is the most famous proponent of predestination. The free-will view is sometimes called Arminianism, presumably after someone called Arminius. In the Catholic Church, the debate broke out in the 17th century in France, where the predestination view was propounded by Jansen, whilst the Jesuits held the free-will position. Both sides find plenty of scripture to support their position.
Moslems, Hindus and Jews have all recognised and found ways of resolving or living with this dilemma too.

Do Atheists believe in free-will?

If you think Atheism is the answer, think again! I have heard debates among Atheists where some believe all is predetermined, and others that it is not. This raises problems over accountability and punishment, among other issues.
Most modern Christians, and many before, accept that both views are true in a way. Some have tried to intellectually reconcile them. Most leave that problem to God. We believe in God for lots of reasons and are not put off by philosophical issues we can’t resolve. I can’t explain what electricity is, or light, but I do not deny their existence or refuse to benefit from them. Try it. With God, I mean, not electricity!