So many places in the US have been upended by the forces of nature unleashed upon people going about life as we know it. We all are flabbergasted at how things so quickly change and life as normal is no longer.
The media, of course, must ask pastors what they say to people who wonder why this happened. That’s a necessary question, a good question to ask. I am surprised by how unprepared pastors are to answer it.
Usual response –
“We really don’t know why this happened.”
At which point the church board should have a meeting and fire the pastor!!!
For, in fact, we do know why it happened. What we don’t know is why certain people or communities are spared. If a media crew showed up in my town today, put a microphone in front of me and asked me why Pembroke, MA was not hit by a tornado or earthquake today, to that question I would respond, “We really don’t know why this happened”, the “this” being that we were not hit.
Christians know that the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven (Romans 1:18). We do know that Jesus thought catastrophes were opportunities to get right with God. (Luke 13:1-5) What is amazing is that he spares most people everyday, when in fact the overwhelming teaching of the Bible is that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God and are therefore subject to what flows out of our coldness and hardness to God.
Does this make us hardhearted and unloving to say this? Well, no. But there is a way to say it and a way not to say it. Most pastors haven’t settled in their minds how to say it, particularly when they know that they way they say it will find its way into the media.
We live in a world that doesn’t work right. And there are moments when it erupts in unusual ferocity. The eruptions are signposts for us all to call upon Him as we weep and woundedly help the one fallen. I can’t figure out why pastors and tv evangelists can’t say this.
Sure, what so many want to hear is that God loves everyone and didn’t want this to happen. But then again, I am not so sure that is what they want to hear. I think deep down they want to give real meaning to these catastrophes that goes beyond the “God is love but can’t really get around human freedom and natural catastrophes to help us” bromides that are thrown out by the religious community. These bromides help nobody.
In the midst of our life as usual routines, God calls us back to get right with Him. And as we minister to the broken in love, we seek to nurture people’s hearts by taking their questions more seriously than we seem to do.