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When God allows us to face the pain of this world he is speaking loudest, writes Mark Smith.
New Year brings "stat days'', perhaps some annual leave, time with friends and family, rest and recreation.
It's also a time for contemplating what 2016 will hold.
What direction will it take?
What will it have to offer?
Some things are already fixed: the birthday we'll try to forget and that vital anniversary we must remember.
There are possible plans, goals or some feat of self-improvement we have determined to keep, yet already liable to end up on 2017's list of goals, more as wishful thinking than reality!
For some, the sporting calendar is duly anticipated.
On the back of the euphoria of Twickenham, and the triumph of the Blue and Golds' super XV triumph, there is hope of a repeat for the Highlanders, Sevens success in Rio and for the Black Caps.
Beyond the sporting arena, financial analysts will do their crystal-ball gazing over international markets, looking for some indication of what the global economy will do.
Is it to be the year of the yen, or will the dollar still hold its own?
But if 2015 is anything to go by, 2016 looks to be a year marred by enough conflict and tragedy to sober anyone's spirit.
Boko Haram jihadists, airliners brought down by bombs, Islamic State-supported terrorist attacks, and the refugee crisis all create an element of unease as we face 2016 and beyond.
All this gloom undermines any confidence or potential optimism we may have.
We may take comfort in our relative antipodean isolation from global political conflicts and terrorist hotspots, although this doesn't make us immune or invulnerable to our own personal tragedies. How does one face a year with these dark clouds hanging overhead?
Is it "que sera, sera, whatever will be will be'', playing Pollyanna's "glad game'' as we try to look on the bright side of life?
Are we the ostrich with its head in the sand (which apparently they don't do) hoping it will not happen?
Is the answer found in an international military response, quashing one predicament after another, like a fireman trying to control the hot spots after a wild fire? Is the answer in good political process and law bringing a utopia that we imagine?
The New York Daily News, responding to the tragic San Bernardino shootings, heralded in bold lettering, "God Isn't Fixing This.''
Do we perceive God as some sort of Mr Fix-it or "hire-a-hubby'' for the world's problems?
Is God not doing his "job'' of bringing good to everyone?Yet others question God's goodness, ability and even existence.
Oxford don C. S. Lewis points out that this isn't as simple as we like to make it.
If the universe is governed by an absolute good, then we ourselves are actually in a terrible fix.
God would be against ALL injustice, acts of terror, cruelty, greed, exploitation, selfishness, jealousy or deceit; not just on a large scale but on every scale no matter how small.
He would be the standard by which all goodness would be measured.
Part of us agrees with Him.
Terrorist acts and atrocities should be stopped and justice served.
But we also feel uneasy because our own failings would need to be addressed.
Lewis says: "Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger - according to the way you react to it. And we have all reacted the wrong way.''
According to the Bible, God's "fix-it'' plans are bigger and more comprehensive than we may imagine.
It does involve restoration and healing the pain of a broken world. However, it also involves justice and putting right all wrongs. It involves his son, Jesus, coming into this world, experiencing the brokenness, cruelty and injustice of humanity and through his rejection offering forgiveness and reconciliation with God Himself.
His is a "fix-it'' plan that is cosmically comprehensive, where genuine justice will finally be served.
In the meantime, the brokenness of our world reminds us all is not right.
When things are going well we tend to ignore God, but when He allows us to face the pain of this world, we complain that He isn't doing his job.
Yet, it is in those times he is speaking loudest - "seeking to rouse a deaf world''.
Do you hear his voice?
How will you respond?
What will it bring?
● Mark Smith is pastor of Grace Bible Church, Dunedin.