Natural Disasters – Where’s God?

It first occurred to me, or, at least it first got to me, back in 2005 around the end of August when hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I remember seeing an aerial view of the devastation: miles and miles of houses and businesses underwater. I couldn’t help but think of how many of the owners must have been devout Christians who had prayed intently to be spared. Yet, they had not been spared. Couldn’t God, with all his majesty and power have heard those prayers and acted upon them to quell the storm as Jesus had done in the boat when his disciples had feared they would all be drowned?

What about those poor people who went up into their attics to escape the floods during Katrina? Surely they prayed earnestly for salvation of a very real kind, someone to come and rescue them. Yet many died in those attics as the flood waters rose. Where was God in all of that? And now we have Hurricane Harvey hitting the Houston area, dropping 50+ inches of rain in some locations.  What of these people and their prayers?

I couldn’t understand any of this until I remembered two things: 1) Our ways are not God’s ways, our thinking is not God’s thinking, and 2) Jesus himself prayed earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane that God would take the cup of suffering from him and not make him drink of it. But, as we know if we’ve read the Bible, God did not take the cup away. Jesus did suffer and die. However, Jesus rose from the dead. And that fact has saved the world countless times over. In fact, one could easily argue that it has served as the basis for the modern world. Because of Jesus, men have treated each other with more love and kindness than they ever would have without him. We’ve built our western civilization around peaceful co-existence and justice.

One thing that always comes with a natural disaster is the out-pouring of love and support. People come from all over to help. Money and essentials are provided. When governments are paralyzed by red tape and are slow to act, people come forward and give of themselves. NGOs such as The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army help with shelter, food and clothing.

Natural disasters strip people of the non-essentials. We lose everything in the flood or fire or earthquake. When that happens, we find out who we truly are and what is really important. Stripped of all our worldly goods, we learn what a hold they had on us. We are forced to ask for and accept help from strangers.  When we don’t know where to turn or what to do, many of us turn to God.

Maybe that is why God allows natural disasters. He knows they will bring out the best in us, AND, they will make us turn to Him for help. But, they also bring out the worst in some people, don’t they? We often see wholesale looting of stores and private property. Still, the good always out-weighs the bad, even though the ugly deeds get more attention in the media. If we can believe in the good, and if we can believe that “the best is yet to come,” we can get through the storm, the flood, the fire and the earthquake and put our lives back together again.

Today, I saw the mayor of a town in Texas, whose own home was flooded, encourage others and say: “God is good. All the time, God is good.” If we can say that and believe it, we can get through anything. And here is a secret: if we keep saying it, and say it often enough, we will come to believe it.  When we come to believe it, we will see it manifested in our lives.

Paradise

Been thinking about… what comes next after this life? What will Paradise be like?

We all fear the suffering that may be involved in making the transition at the end of our earthly lives.  We don’t like to think about it, so we keep our days packed with activities that keep our minds on other things.  We kid ourselves into thinking that life will go on and on even though we know it will someday come to an end.  But once we have made the transition, and are in that other realm, wherever it is, what will it be like?  Some say we close our eyes here and wake up there, no transition, no pain.  That would be great.  No guarantees, but we can all hope for the best:  a quick and painless passage.  I’d vote for that!

Some say that we cannot know what comes next.  We cannot know what heaven will be like because God does not want us to know.  They say that if we really knew how great heaven was, we would no longer be happy here on earth.  Others say the Bible tells us all we need to know and can know with any certainty about a place called ‘Heaven’ or ‘Paradise’.  This life is hard, at times.  For some it is VERY hard.  Thus, we look forward with great hope to a better ‘life’ in a better ‘place’.  We like to think our reward is in Heaven and it well may be.  But, we have to wait until it is our time and that is determined by God.

If we try to rush it and get there faster by taking our own life, we will be sad to find out that we’ve cheated ourselves out of much of what heaven has to offer.  It may be that the difference is so staggering as to be like the difference between homelessness and a life of luxury.

I confess, I am one who believes Paradise or Heaven is a real place and our spirits go there when we die.  At least some part of that which we know as ourselves somehow survives our physical death and lives on in a place that is like earth in many respects, but different in others.

The part of us that moves on is proportional to the love we have demonstrated while alive on earth.  The more love we have shown, the bigger our spirit, the greater the reward in heaven.  We could sum it up like this:

Much love, much reward.

Little love, little reward.

No love, no reward.

Heaven is all about love, so those who have not learned how to love well in this life will find heaven a very empty place.

Many say there is a hell and evil people go there.  It is a place far from God and all that is good.  It is a place of eternal torment.  It is a place where everyone lies and does shameful things.  It is a place of heat and thirst.  I believe it exists and is all of that, and more.

I’m convinced where we go when we die is determined in large part by what we firmly and deeply believe.  Thus, when we think about heaven and imagine what it will be like, we are actually providing Jesus the raw materials for creating our eternal resting place.

What we experience on the other side of the veil will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before.  How do we know?  Because many have gone there for short periods and returned to tell about it.  Many have written books and talked about what they experienced during an NDE or Near Death Experience.  They report having vivid memories of a place and experiences MORE REAL than anything they’ve ever known.  If we accept their testimony and believe what the Bible says, nothing in this life begins to compare with the wondrous peace and beauty and love we’ll experience in the life to come.

We will experience comfort beyond compare. We will feel as if we’ve finally arrived home after a very long and tiring journey (about which we will have no memory whatsoever).  Friends and relatives who’ve preceded us in death will meet us and welcome us.  They’ll throw a party to celebrate our arrival.  We’ll sing and dance; we’ll eat, drink and be merry.

In heaven, we will feel love beyond anything we have ever experienced before.  It will be stronger than that of two lovers newly engaged; better and more caring than the love a mother has for her child; it will be seen and felt, tasted, smelled and heard. It will surround us and infuse us and fill us with joy to the point we’ll want nothing more than to remain there forever basking in this multi-sensory experience.

We’ll meet The Source of that Love, a figure of brightness like that of an arc light, yet pleasant to look at. The Source will assure us of our welcome and the importance of our being there. We’ll be so enthralled with meeting The Source that we will never want to be separated. And, in fact, we never will be separated because we and The Source will be One.  Truth is we’ve always been one, we just didn’t know it, didn’t see the connection.  Now we will see that we are not only connected but also inseparable.  Jesus said, behold I am with you always until the end of time.  Truth is, God The Source is with us forever and especially in Paradise where there is no time, no beginning and no end, only NOW forever.

Through the Source, we will know everything we need to know.  All our questions will be answered.  All will make perfect sense and we will understand things that confused us and puzzled us before.  However, many of the questions we had in our earthly life will vanish.  Things that seemed important will dwindle to insignificance in the Light of the Source.  Any question that does come to mind will be instantly answered.  Before we even think to ask it,  the answer will be given.

Our bodies will be young and healthy.  We’ll be able to do all the things we did in our youth and never get tired or run out of energy.  Imagine swimming across a lake UNDERWATER without having to come up for air.  Imagine running a marathon without even breathing hard.  We’ll be able to lie in the sun for hours with no fear of sunburn or skin cancer.  We’ll be able to get the perfect tan.  Our bodies will be perfectly toned and we’ll be the ideal weight for our height.  Our BMI will be perfect, and we’ll be able to eat and drink whatever we want, as much as we want without fear of gaining weight or getting sick.

We’ll never get tired.  We’ll be able to climb mountains higher than Mt. Everest without oxygen and without stopping to rest.  We may pause to enjoy the view, but we won’t have to stop to catch our breath.  Heck, we’ll be able to summit Everest in the morning and go for a swim in the Indian Ocean in the afternoon.  Once at the top, all we’ll need to do to get down is think intently about where we want to be and we’ll be instantly transported there.  We won’t even have to ask Scotty to “beam us up.”

Nothing will harm us.  We won’t have to be careful about what we do.  We’ll be able to run and jump, even play Superman and leap tall buildings at a single bound.  Nothing will be impossible.

 

Relationships will be different.  We’ll enjoy each others company, sometimes in the most intimate ways imaginable, perhaps even more intimate than we can imagine.  We’ll actually be able to feel what the other person feels as if we were them.  What better way to insure that we bring as much pleasure to our partner as to our self?  We won’t have to guess at what the other is feeling.  We’ll know because we’ll be feeling it ourselves.

When we talk to another, we won’t have to guess at what they are thinking.  We’ll know because we’ll be one with them.  We’ll share thoughts and be able to communicate without words.

Time will have no meaning in Paradise.  Yesterday, today and tomorrow will all run together.  We’ll be able to go back to yesterday or on to tomorrow.  Because of this we’ll be able to be in more than one place at the same time.  Also, we’ll be able to travel instantly to anyplace we want, anywhere in the universe.  We may even find that we can move between universes popping in and out of them at will.

We will not be able to think an evil thought.  We will not be able to say or do anything that will hurt another person or cause them any anguish.  We’ll live with a permanent smile on our faces and love in our hearts for everyone and everything.  Every utterance will be an encouragement to others.  It will exude the love we feel for them.

Since we can bond intimately with others, we’ll be able to communicate without words.  This means no language barriers.  It also means no barriers of any kind to open communication with anyone we meet.  If we want another person to know our thoughts, all we’ll have to do is think of what we want to say to the person and they will know what we want to tell them.  We’ll still be able to have private thoughts.  But, if we want to keep our thoughts private, we’ll be able to to do so.  But, that will seldom be necessary as we won’t have any thoughts that we’d want to hide from others.  God, of course, will know all our thoughts in Paradise just as God knows them now.

Traveling from one place to another will be effortless.  We can be there at the speed of thought, if we want, or we can go the old fashioned way, one step at a time.  Probably, we won’t take steps but merely move along effortlessly gliding up and down hills.  We’ll be able to walk on water just as Jesus did, so bridges will not be needed, but they’ll still exist for aesthetic purposes.

Nothing will die, so if we pick a flower or a bouquet, the flowers will instantly grow back.  If we drop a picked flower on the ground, it will immediately take root and grow where it was dropped.  If we step on the grass and crush it, it will spring back leaving no sign of our footprint.

Since there is no time, we won’t age.  We’ll have all the time we need to do whatever we want to do.  We’ll be able to dine with Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David and Jesus separately or all at once.  Imagine visiting Martin Luther or Galileo or Copernicus.  We’ll be able to sail with Columbus and hear about what they found directly from the early explorers.

Since we’ll have access to all knowledge and understanding that exists, we’ll be able to discus the Theory of Relativity with Einstein and Quantum Mechanics with Max Planck.  We’ll be able to read all the books we’ve wanted to read but never had time to.

Writing will be fun and effortless.  Our thoughts will appear on a screen or page just as if we were talking to a flawless speech-recognition program.  When we are done with our “dictation,” the book will appear instantly and be accessible to everyone.  If we think of a change we’d like to make to it, we can do so instantly and every copy will be updated immediately.  Those who have read it already will know about the change.

We’ll receive instant feedback on our writing efforts, too.  Feedback will resemble  comments at the end of a blog post except they’ll come directly to our minds when we are ready to receive them.  All comments will be constructive and we’ll be able to respond to them if we like.  We’ll also have the option to have comments open to all who read the work.

Scientists will be able to do complex experiments and have the results analyzed instantly and papers published quickly.  Peer reviews will not be necessary because the margin for error will be zero.

Thinking about what we will do in paradise leads to some interesting conclusions.  God will assign us duties based on our interests and experience.  Whatever we do, we’ll enjoy it immensely.

Heaven will truly be a blessing in every respect.

I don’t know about you, but the more I think about heaven and being there forever with Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit, the source of all goodness and love, the more I want to go there.  Thankfully, the Lord assures me that someday I will join Him there.  He assures everyone that they will join him in Paradise if they are baptised and confess with their lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead.

See you in Paradise!