Since time began, human beings have always sought to understand why bad things happen, and right now is no different as people try to figure out how we should look at Hurricanes Harvey and Irma coming back to back as well as the wildfires and earthquakes plaguing our land. When there are no scientific answers that satisfy, the tendency is to ascribe the event to God and look to God for explanation. Insurance policies speak of natural disasters outside human control as “acts of God”. Kirk Cameron, a former child actor, seems to believe hurricanes such as Harvey and Irma are messages from God. He said, “When he puts his power on display, it’s never without reason. There’s a purpose. And we may not always understand what that purpose is, but we know it’s not random and we know that weather is sent to cause us to respond to God in humility, awe and repentance.”
I need to be clear and you have every right to disagree with me, but I do not believe that God creates hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and floods, to make us bow before Him. The loving but angry God who grinds us under His thumb, punishing us, destroying homes and lives, belongings and pets, and countless people, to teach us a lesson is not a God I want to believe in. My parents’ home was burned down in the Oakland Hills fire many years ago and I know that we, and many others, were wounded and grieving and heartbroken, people and communities who needed to be cared for and comforted and embraced—we didn’t need careless people trying to explain why it happened and especially why what happened was a good thing or that it was a message from God to get us in line. I do not pretend to understand how this world works or why bad things happen to good people or even those who aren’t so good. The Bible tells us of Job who loses everything and is stricken with grief, at first his friends show wisdom by simply sitting with him in his grief. Only later do they fall into the temptation of placing blame and playing God.
I cannot imagine what the people of Texas and Florida, Oregon, Montana, California, India, Bangladesh, the islands of Barbuda and St. Martin, and so many others, are suffering through in these days. In such terrible times, we should simply try to be a loving, compassionate presence and contribute to the recovery in whatever way we can. Lord, have mercy. As the psalmist says: God, you are our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble.
Rev. Peggy Roberts
Assistant Pastor, Church of the Beatitudes
Pastor Peggy Roberts has Dual Standing with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Southwest Conference United Church of Christ. She previously served as Chaplain for Hospice of the Valley, pastor at Palo Cristi Church and associate pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Sun City. firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the church at www.beatitudeschurch.org