My insurance company calls a random catastrophe that destroys property an ‘act of God’.
After Hurricane Katrina, the mayor of New Orleans said, “God must be mad at America.”
Disaster movies always have a brainy character who warns everyone that the coming plague or earthquake or asteroid will cause destruction of ‘biblical proportions’.
God language comes up a lot when we talk about calamity. Ever notice that?
Maybe we blame this habit on the Bible, which certainly has more than a few stories of drought, sickness and storms in it. But I don’t think most of us are doing scriptural analysis when we refer to God in relation to a crisis or a disaster.
I think we want to make sense of the senseless, and if possible find some kind of meaning in hardship and suffering.
Attributing the unexplainable to God is a coping strategy I have sympathy for, but some tragedies are just beyond our ability to comprehend them, and God doesn’t make the senseless make sense.
I personally don’t blame God for earthquakes and tsunamis, but I do see God’s glory and power in the face of disaster, all the time.
A flood causes astonishing devastation, but thousands of individuals work and sacrifice to help those who’ve lost homes and livelihood. A fire ravages a community, and is met by unfathomable courage and giving throughout a unified people.
God doesn’t cause the trauma, but is present nonetheless, in the hands of the helpers.
This week David Brooks wrote about a family whose dining room has become a hub for teenagersfacing every kind of hardship the world can serve up. The kids who gather at Kathy and David Simpson’s house find healing and self-worth around the table where they’re served home-cooked meals. They defy the power of poverty and violence (their daily realities), because they’ve drawn strength from time in this place, which is shaped by hospitality and goodwill. Brooks himself has been strengthened by dinners at this house of warmth and community, describing his weekly attendance as “my visit to a better future.”
God’s hand isn’t in senseless destruction; it’s in helping the ones knocked down to get back up. It’s in the care and intention of building relationships and peace.
God’s activity is usually not a spectacle, but it still inspires awe when you see it for what it is. Grace and compassion go beyond our ability to reason, and are miracles in their own right. Look closely for the generosity and neighborliness that truly does exist all around you, any time you want to witness an act of God.
The Table is a Christian community of transformation:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith
Worship Sundays, 5pm
Downtown Davenport, Iowa