Thursday, May 23, 2013

After the Calamity

A neighborhood in  Oklahoma obliterated by a tornado (CNN photo)

When calamity strikes, especially in the case of natural disasters as in the recent terrible tornadoes that struck Oklahoma, there will be many survivors thanking God that their lives were spared.  Some will even use such an occasion to “give God the glory” for their deliverance.  Others are uncomfortable with such God-talk in the wake of tragedy. Sometimes thanking God even may be an irreverent response. 

As for "giving God the glory," I can understand the qualms some may have with that. Sometimes I think we can be too fast and glib with evoking the name of the Lord. On the other hand, I can understand it from a gut level. There are those times when things occur that seem to be beyond us. We feel that we have been visited by grace or rescued by a Higher Power.  Someone feels intuitively that this was beyond his or her own abilities to accomplish or to orchestrate – it must have been the hand of God. That is an understandable gut reaction.

However, if we think about it, it can get more complicated. “God took me off the streets when I was down and out” – but then why did God leave others on the street?  “God restored my health” – I am always ready to rejoice in this one, but what about others whose health was not restored?  It is natural in wartime, I suppose, for soldiers to feel that God gave them a victory when the outcome had looked bleak – but what about those on the other side who prayed and died? What about all the truly god-fearing people who come upon misfortune?

I believe that God is always with us in the process, and if things are good, we can be grateful. If things are difficult and if failure and defeat rule the day, God walks through the valley with us (and we can still be grateful). The problem comes if you start thinking that God is rewarding or punishing. Things just happen. Sometimes, as Viktor Frankl says in his book,  Man’s Search for Meaning,  life is asking questions of us – how will we respond?

Rick Bragg related an amusing story in his book All Over but the Shoutin'.  He tells of getting this fast convertible when he was in high school. He wrecked it while driving 100 MPH, flattened it, and walked away unhurt. The man driving the wrecker said “The Lord was ridin’ with you, boy!” His Uncle Ed said the same thing, “The Lord was with you.” Rick Bragg said that with everyone saying that, he expected the local newspaper, The Anniston Star, to run a headline, “LORD RIDES WITH BOY, WRECKS ANYWAY.”



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