Updated on September 14, 2017
Finding grace in the storm
The clean-up is continuing around here as storm damage is assessed and debris removed. We are the lucky ones, though, in our suburb. Not much damage was done. We even kept our power through the worst of the storm. The pictures on the news tell a different story of other places, however. As the sun peeked out yesterday and its light settled on the landscape of many cities, it only illuminated the heartache. Trees, houses, whole city blocks, all destroyed. People’s possessions and ways of life tossed about like toys in a sandbox. And it is all beginning to feel overwhelming. Hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, the pictures of devastation just keep coming. And what in the world does God think about all of this?
That boy asks me flat out as he and I go about putting the deck furniture back in place. He has a million little questions about storms and fires. Why did the storm hit where it did? What if it comes back? Could our yard catch on fire? If we had to evacuate could we take our pillows? And I find myself with very few answers. Because the truth is. I. Don’t. Know. Except for the pillow question. Yes. Yes, you could take your pillow.
But the big stuff? The questions that are perhaps haunting us all. Why not us? Why that city? Why those people? Why that destruction? What in the world does God think about all of this? I find that I cannot answer those questions with quick clarifying words.
But that eight year old won’t stop, he stares me down, waiting for answers. Mom? Why? And I realize that maybe what really matters is what I do know.
I know that God is with us. I know that he is with those who have lost it all. I know that he goes before us and stands beside us and has promised to never leave us. And I know that he loves us with an everlasting love that pursues us even in the face of tragedy.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth and he will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:28-19).
Those verses run right through my head as my little guy wields fallen tree branches like swords. But. He’s eight. I probably need to try and speak his language. So, I stutter my way through an answer.
God is so good, buddy. God only ever wants to do good. God cannot do bad things, it is against his nature. And when bad things happen, he is always with his children who are hurting. He runs to them and holds them close. Just like I run to help you up when you fall off your bike.
“And God gives the best hugs and I bet he has the best Band-Aids — the kind that don’t hurt when you take them off!” he laughs and carries off his newly found weapons to the yard.
And I am left to wonder if maybe he understands it better than me.
These lines from the book, The Shack, come to mind as I continue to ponder his questions and watch the sun dance shadows across the deck floor. This book has its theological issues and points on which I disagree, but it paints such a brilliant picture of our loving Father, that I read most of it through tears.
The Shack is a work of fiction by William Young about a guy named Mack who experiences much tragedy in his life. In the course of the story, he meets Papa, the personified character of God. And he asks God about the reasons behind all of the awful tragedies; his own and the world’s. Papa answers like this: “Mack just because I work incredible good out of tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors” (Young pg.185).
Grace. God’s way of getting right to us, even in the middle of the storms life brings our way. And the most amazing grace of all is this, Immanuel. God with us. God, with us in the beautiful and the delightful and God with us in the heartbreak and the destruction. He never looks away. He never stops coming for us.
So, as we pray and help and try to answer questions about the ways that the world appears to be coming undone, may we use our words and our actions to simply point to this amazing grace:
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish have eternal life” (John 3:16).
And may we come to know that God is with us all the time.