I still can't stop myself checking the news at half hour intervals. I suspect that I'm not the only one. The Manchester bombing has made the affairs of our nation feel more current. There is still a sense of shock. Of disbelief. We're not the sort of country that has troops on the streets!
This is of course a reflection on the experience of life in the UK for people my age and younger. We have never known a time when our country has been anything but peaceful. Unless you lived in Northern Ireland during the "troubles", then you have rarely seen a soldier other than on the telly or standing guard outside Buckingham Palace.
There has been that sense of the country pulling together. Rallying round the people of Manchester. Offering support. The problem for most people is what to do when you are helpless? Helpless to stop terrorism. Helpless to bring back lost loved ones. Helpless to find missing children.
The two most common response have been to send love and to pray. Many of the advertising billboards across the city have been simply changed to "Pray for Manchester" (#westandtogether). Many celebrities from James Corden to Katie Perry have said that they are praying. When people feel helpless and hopeless they pray.
We are created to find help and hope in a relationship with God, our loving Heavenly Father, through Jesus his son. That's why the most natural thing to do is pray when we find ourselves facing a situation like the horror of Monday night's attack. We call out to the God who often we have been ignoring.
In fact the Bible says that God has ordered our very lives so that we might look for him.
"And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way towards him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us..." (Acts 17:26-27)
Just as it is the natural thing for a child to run to their parents arms when they are hurt or afraid, so it is the most natural thing for people to turn to God in need. It is an acknowledgement of our dependence on Him. Of our helplessness. Of our need for answers. Of the very purpose for which we were created. To know him and his love.
I pray that out of the tragedy and pain of Monday night people might not just call to God as they call the emergency services. A quick response to their crisis, who is just as quickly forgotten when the crisis passes. But that they would come to him in repentance for the way that they have ignored him thus far in their lives. That they would come in humility and dependence. And find the grace, love, strength and hope that they need. All given through Jesus. The one who suffered pain and death, so that pain and death would not always be our story.