Natural Disasters Devastate; what we can’t see without them.
Homes leveled by a raging storm, peoples dreams along with them. Once a carefully designed house, now only debris. Streets and back yards where kids once played, now small bodies of water filled with contaminants and electrical current. A lifetime’s worth of personal belongs gone in a matter of hours. Whole neighborhoods under water for the first time. Worst of all, lives lost. Families broken. And the course of one’s life changed forever. All because of a storm of wind and rain. A storm over which we have no apparent control.
Have you ever wondered; why does God allow such devastation? What possible purpose could come from such destruction and loss of life? We may not ask this question out loud, but it may quietly haunt us on some level. Does God really care? If he does, why doesn’t he protect us from such destructive forces? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but there are some observations worth noting.
The Christian Bible makes an interesting statement on behalf of the Creator;
“I set before you the way of life and the way of death.” Jeremiah 21:18 NKJV
The environment God seems to have set us in is one of contrast between life and death, good and evil, of which we see displayed daily. The question still begs; why let death and destruction have its way so often and in so many ways? Sometimes it feels as if the world is mostly evil, destructive, with only occasional slithers of light getting through. In my own journey of trying to discover the good amidst the darkness, I often wondered if God allows such devastation for the sole purpose of allowing his ways to be more clearly seen. Maybe in some odd way this messed up world serves as the perfect backdrop for God to showcase authentic good.
This idea is an affront however to our utopic mindset. Naturally we don’t want to see any evil in our world. We want to eradicate it. Therefore, we may reason; “if God were really a loving God, death and destruction would never occur.” But it’s hard to deny the clarifying effect of a world that contrasts both good and evil so poignantly. If we’re looking to create a Utopian society however, the idea of having to parse out the good and evil around us seems an unnecessary distraction to the life we’re hoping to build.
With Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many are singing the praises of individuals who are sacrificing their time, labor and funds in order to help those affected by the storms. Corporations too. We all have watched as stores like Home Depot helped in getting goods to people who need it by increasing delivery of goods to the devastation zones, and without raising prices unduly. Delta Airlines, American Airlines and Frontier Airlines all have reduced their fares in an effort to help get folks out of Florida. Gallery Furniture of Houston opened its doors and became a shelter for anyone in need. Some reports suggest it may have cost the store upwards of $30,000.00 a day for its generosity. No doubt many mom and pop stores have shared their goods as well, these are unsung heroes.
Here in the U.S., there’s something rather stifling about things going well; a bustling economy, money flowing, goods being sold, no major wars, no storms, no worries, that seems to bring the worst out in some. It’s almost as if the closer we get to a utopia, the more of a platitude we become, the more one dimensional our spirits. We become complacent as a people, bored maybe, and our criticism and infighting abound as result. Instead of our success as a country bringing out the hero, it appears to hide the hero. Instead of wealth making us want to be more generous, it seems to highlight greed. This is not true with everyone. Our own pursuit of the utopia however seems to rob our existence of character and blur the lines of right and wrong.
On the other hand, when disaster hits, our profile as a country changes dramatically. We’re once again shaken in our being, our gaze is sharpened and our spirits are open to the idea of sacrificial love. We spring into action with an ever sharper focus, and we ask; “how can I make someone else’s life better, who can I help?” Socioeconomic status suddenly means nothing, the color of our skin is of no consequence, our political squabbles grow quiet for the most part and our precious schedules fall in their status of priority. And our inner heroism rises to the surface and altruism more easily flows from our being.
Is it possible that God occasionally allows things to go wrong so that he can make us right? Is it possible that he allows a disaster to occur so as to remind us what’s lurking just below the surface, what we’re capable of, and what matters most in life? Is it possible that God wants to remind us that no one human being is more important to God than another? That he deeply values all of his children? Is it possible that God wants to remind us how much we need each other, and how our petty disagreements only divide and destroy? And is it possible that those who often and easily throw around accusations of others are only doing the Devil’s work. Perhaps God wants us to stop judging and condemning one another, and instead try to see the good in others, even with those of whom we may not agree.
I can’t help but believe that God allows such disaster so that we can once again see how simple and beautiful life can be when we just take care of each other, look out for the interest of others and to remember that we’re all in this together, both in bad times and good?
Maybe disasters remind us that some of our pursuits are ill intended, and how easily we exploit one another for personal gain, especially when “times are good”. Maybe too many of our relationships are for utility purposes alone, and not simply for the sake of spending time with each other, with no particular agenda.
I wonder how quick the social, racial, economic and political challenges of our day would be solved if we would abide by Jesus’ words; My command is this: “Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NIV
When the storm has passed, who will you be?