Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Love and Hope in the Face of Catastrophe

A destroyed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, OK
Last night, a tornado released the wrath of a fallen, groaning earth. With huge losses in life and an estimated billions of dollars in property damage, the state of Oklahoma and the people of Moore are reeling from this almost unimaginable destructive force. This horrible monster vented its anger as it slammed into this sleepy southwestern town as an unwelcome invader. It went as quickly as it came but not before bullying and tearing up the homes, neighborhoods, and schools of these unwary townspeople.
No one imagines that it could happen to them. It is unthinkable that you would be forced from your home and left out on the street. You can't believe that in a few short moments, you would be mourning the horrible loss of life or sent from your comfortable living room to an emergency room.
But, these things do happen. it seems much too often. So we have a choice to make. We can choose to react or we can choose to respond.
This is how some in our own country reacted:
And there were many more who were full of vitriole, hatred, and ridicule for both God and people hurting deeply. Many comments could not be posted on this blog, but you can type a search on your twitter account and you'll find some horrifying things that were tweeted. It really makes you wonder how atheists can have any moral leg to stand on after the kinds of responses you can read over and over in the twittersphere.
But, to be fair, I have to ask, how would I respond if it was me? My prayer is that it would be the kinds of testimonies that have already come out of this catastrophe. I would like to relate some quotes from CBS interviews taken right after the tornado. These quotes are from people who were there, survived, lost, and still looked ahead in hope. As one commentator announced, "These people are the backbone of this country."
MAN: My security isn't in the things I own. My security is in the Lord.
WOMAN: The last thing we lose in a situation like this is faith. We have to hold onto faith and trust God every moment.
MAN: You salvage what you can salvage. You thank God that he (sic) has another plan for you.
MAN: I'm a believer in Jesus, and by the grace of God, me and my children are alive, and our house is -- we can repair it.
WOMAN: We prayed that God would save our house. We also prayed that if God didn't, he would get us through, and he (sic) will.
MAN: By the grace of God, it's just amazing.
WOMAN: We know that God is good, and we know that there's people out there who are still alive, and we're gonna find 'em. (these are direct quotes recorded for us in this commentary)
I have to wonder, how can they say things like that? How can people worship their God in the face of such life-altering, heart-wrenching tragedy? You see, those who don't have a relationship with God, can't see Him move in what many would see as tragedy. Yet over and over again, those who are close to Him know they can trust Him. They understand that God never does anything outside of His character. He is a holy, loving, just, and merciful God. The only proof we ever need is the Cross of Calvary. It is in the Cross, we see and experience the greatest act of love and the greatest act of justice in all of history.
An actual picture of the mile wide tornado that hit Moore, OK
As I read these testimonies, i can only hope that I would have the same determination and attitude that these men and women have. Yet, these attitudes have been echoed by God's people through the ages. Listen to the words of a man that had everything and nearly everyone ripped from him by the same sort of unimaginable tragedy...interestingly enough partially caused by a huge wind storm:
Suddenly a powerful wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on the young people so that they died
What was this tormented father's answer? One that sounds incredibly similar to the testimonies of God's people we just read:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh. (Job 1:19, 21 HCSB)
God's love always permeates everything that happens, both good and bad. To the cynical who would dismiss and ridicule such a statement, I would appreciate them not just cursing the bad, but giving us hope in the bad. Where were they when these tragedies happened? What good can come out of hatred and riducule? How are they going to respond to tragedy that rips out the heart of humanity every day somewhere in our world?
Every one of us can choose to curse the darkness or light a light. In the face of tragedies like this, I want to willingly make a choice to hold up hope that can only found in the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. He alone can give us hope in the face of tragedy. He alone is true love incarnate.
Pastor Trey Rhodes
This is the next to last week for "Spiritual Simplicity: Doing Less. Loving More." See you Sunday morning at 10:30AM for another exciting message.
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