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A few weeks ago, we awoke to the following news:

Police posted on social media this photo in the early hours of today (Friday) of a coach that became stuck.

The incident led to the closure of the A38 in both directions in Winscombe to the north of the A371 junction. An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said at the time: "A burst water main has caused a sink hole and a coach has become stuck.”

"No injuries have been reported.”

"The road will be shut for some time. Drivers are advised to find an alternative route.”

Fortunately, it’s not a frequent occurrence in the UK but it stirred me to do a bit of research as to why they happen and what causes them.

National Geographic tell us that Sinkholes are caused by erosion. They may appear suddenly and have devastating consequences. They are cavities in the ground that form when water erodes an underlying rock layer.

Two types of sinkhole exist, natural and manmade. One forms when the roof of a cave collapses and exposes the underground cavern. The second type forms when water dissolves the rock underneath soil and creates an underground chasm. Without rock to support it, the soil layer collapses and creates a hole on the surface.

Manmade sinkholes, such as the one that occurred recently in Winscombe, are created when development compromises the structural integrity of underlying rock. Roads, buildings, and other types of construction may cause water to collect in certain areas and wash away the supporting rock layer (especially at low sea levels and after a heavy rainfall). In this case, old drainage had eroded and leaked, which over time, caused the road above it to subside.

On reflection, how often do we go through life when suddenly, and sometimes without warning, we find ourselves standing at the bottom of a sinkhole? If only we had seen what was coming!

I’m pretty sure that most of us at some time in our lives have found ourselves in difficult situations when everything has seemed to come crashing down around us; taking us to places we never even knew existed; places where we have been so low that recovery seems way out of grasp; where the pain of the experience has left us battered and bruised. Often our spiritual foundations are tested, and we find ourselves crying out to God for help.

Just as there is a process for the drains and the road to be repaired, so there is for us too. It would have been a waste of time to just fix the road surface without taking the time and care to ensure that everything below it was either replaced or strengthened. It’s important during this time that we learn to rely on God. In the same way that specialist engineers and support workers are brought in, we sometimes require specialist help and/or the support of friends and family to give us the strength to navigate an unfamiliar route until the repairs can be completed. It is only then that we are ready, able to climb back out, and start to walk again. As we look back on our experiences we can learn to recognise the signs preventing us from falling into that same sinkhole again.

We can find reassurance in the words of Isaiah 46:4 that God will always take care of us, protect us and rescue us.

Even to your old age and grey hairs, I am he who will sustain you.

I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

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