Summary: In the midst of the emotional shock wave that has swept across our nation due to the still-burning fires in Southern California throughout this past week, finding that place where the Providence and grace of God merges with massive devastation and extreme
Can we trust and rely on God all the time, in every circumstance? What about when disaster strikes? Is He really there? Is He really listening? Does He really care and answer?
In the midst of the emotional shock wave that has swept across our nation due to the still-burning fires in Southern California throughout this past week, finding that place where the Providence and grace of God merges with massive devastation and extreme loss is difficult, at best.
Almost 3,000 structures have been lost and over a half-million acres of land have been devastated by the fires. What do we say to those who have lost everything?
Much of what could be said may well seem glib or superficial. People aren’t looking for easy, pat answers, are they? No, they want real, definitive answers to there questions, especially the biggest one: “Where was God when this terrible disaster was taking place?” The second biggest question is, “Why didn’t He stop it?”
Trying to make sense of a huge disaster like this will always be difficult because, for those closest to it, they are absolutely not interested in platitudes and polished answers about, “God’s got it all under control,” and other such statements. Why should they be?
What interests them, of course, is knowing how to deal with the feelings that are rushing over them – anger, fear, doubt, grief, relief, helplessness and a myriad of other deep and penetrating emotions. Not all of them at once, I grant you, but they can come so fast upon one another that it can seem like they are all there at the same time.
Some of the feelings seem to be the exact opposite of some of the others, yet there they are, tightening one’s stomach, clenching one’s fists, quivering one’s lips, flooding one’s eyes with tears.
The very first point of peace we can turn to is the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” If we are willing, we can turn to Him and lean on Him for strength, courage, help and hope in the midst of tragedy and disaster as well as our daily life.
Can we believe in a God who would allow such devastation and loss? Can there really be a caring and compassionate God who would stand by and watch a million people driven from their homes, thousands lose their homes, and some even lose their very lives?
These are questions to be expected. In fact, these are questions that it would seem odd if they were not being asked. When time has had a chance to elapse, life has gone on, other cares and concerns crowd their way into the forefront of our lives, most of the intensity, and constancy of these feelings and questions will fade into the shadows.
But, for now, these are the kinds of questions that resonate in the minds of many, along with ones like, “What do we do now?” “Where are we going to live?” “Is it really all gone?” Overwhelmed and hopeless, looking for hope and direction – that’s where thousands stand after something like this happens.
In Isaiah 46:9-11, God says through the prophet, "Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ’My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.”
This is where our hope begins; this is where our hope lies. God did not bring evil and sin and destruction into the world – we did that; we still do that. God in His sovereign grace overcomes the evil and brings good out of the ashes of destruction.
Will it do any good to mention that it could have been much, much worse? For some, it will. For others? Not right now, it won’t. Will it do any good to tell someone to keep praying when all they can see right now is the amount of loss that surrounds them? Again, for some it will. For others, not really.
One journalist reported that after a blaze in Santa Clarita, a man named Don Benson found his home and his prized 1957 Thunderbird in ruins. A neighbor drove by, sending a wish for better days: “I hope God is good to you.” “I believe in Him,” Benson called back, “but sometimes it wears thin.”
This, of course, is where people without faith in God find themselves incredulous at those who have faith in God. How can anyone believe in a God who would allow this kind of devastation to strike so many innocent people, people who do little to no harm to anyone else, people who do their best to do what is right, treat others fairly and be good, solid citizens?