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.