Finding God in Gustav
Rain pelted my windshield this morning as we drove around the church, looking for the “Disaster Relief” sign. I parked, helped the kids out of the van, lowered my youngest into the stroller and pulled down the shade to shield at least her head from the unrelenting downpour, and we all sloshed to the door. Under the awning huddled smokers, children, and anyone else who wanted a breath of outside air, however damp.
Inside we walked past scattered rows of cots, posters for those looking for family members, and people leaning, perched, sitting, or milling around everywhere. The humidity and scents of people from all walks of life swirled around us, and I tried to offer an encouraging smile.
The masses from Gustav had headed north, and here they were—homeless, restless, waiting. Their children didn’t have toys to play with; they counted on strangers to do their laundry; they no doubt watched the news tracking Hanna and Ike, getting ready to pummel the coast again. Later I remembered Jesus’ reaction to a similar crowd: When he saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).
If you live far enough from the southeast that only news reports have drifted your way, please continue to pray for these weary people and their battered homes. I realized today that many of those in the church we visited couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel, didn’t have family to cling to, or didn’t have a plan. They will return to Louisiana to nail together and wring out the pieces that are left of their lives.
As we drove home, my four-year-old asked a question that nearly all of us ask at some point in life in some form. “Mom, why does God make hurricanes?” Lord, why did you allow cancer? Why my child, Lord?
Why the suffering, Lord?
Well, the answer to that is much longer than a blog. But I tried to explain that the Bible says creation is “groaning” because of the curse from our sin. Much of the suffering we see is because we live in a world thoroughly infected by sin—from people’s choices to sin, or the simple fact that when Adam and Eve sinned, nature was affected too.
But I’d be leaving something out if I didn’t answer the real question: Why God allows it to happen—because He could (and does) spare us from some suffering. When God finally answers Job, His essential answer to Job might be summed up as this: My thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than yours. I know what I’m doing. I created the world, created time, created you. Trust me.
I also told my son what Joseph reiterated (as in, sold into slavery by his brothers and landed in prison so that the nation of Israel could be saved, Joseph): That no matter what man or Satan does—or what God does—God intends it for good. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. That includes cancer, hunger, and sweet Molly. God is great. And He is good. All the time. I hang my hat, no, my life, on that. Every day.
I do believe that we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
There are already evidences of God beyond the immense power of 110 mph winds and sheets of rain. I saw Him in the families rushing to the church to help, the enduring volunteers who scrubbed another bathroom, made another phone call, dished up another plate. He is certainly there in the souls who lash themselves to the Rock as those winds and rain beat their houses.
As my kids and I prayed, we asked God for protection, peace, and graciousness. But most of all we prayed that His great purposes, which I have faith are beautiful “beyond all comparison” to the suffering, will be fully realized.
I challenge you to use this opportunity to further teach your children compassion, generosity, and a deeply embedded knowledge of God’s goodness. If you can, allow them to see, smell, hear, and feel people’s very real hurt and teach them how to respond. (It was cool to hear my son ask which toys he could give the kids who don’t have any!) What an opportunity to dialogue with them, preparing them for what they’ll encounter on their own.
Know that of what remains after Gustav, God remains unchanged, faithful, and good.