Driving several hours to our home in St. Louis Sunday night, my wife and I went through a terrific storm. Only later, after we arrived home safely, did we realize it might have been part of the same tornado system that devastated the city of Joplin, in which thousands of buildings were destroyed and more than a hundred people were killed. While the storm we were in was minor compared with the one in Joplin, nevertheless it was frightening, and we responded with prayer.
These destructive weather events are sometimes unfortunately – and mistakenly – called “acts of God.” The Creator does not produce effects resulting in mayhem and death. God is not angry with the citizens of Joplin any more than He was with those in New Orleans when hurricane Katrina hit, or with the Haitians or Japanese when earthquakes struck their countries. Nor are those who escape injury somehow receiving more of God’s favor than the unfortunate. These events should have the effect of pointing us to put more practical trust in the all-power of God.
Theodicy, a branch of theology that attempts to explain God’s goodness and omnipotence despite the existence of evil, might lead some to identify destructive acts as God’s will. This is ultimately unhelpful and would promote a resigned fatalism.
For those who are faced with what appear to be monumental, and perhaps impossible, tasks putting together shattered lives and rebuilding a shredded city after a disaster, the certainty of God’s ever-renewing nature can give a tremendous boost of confidence. We can start from the knowledge that an ever-loving God never would punish His children, and in fact these destructive forces are not His will at all. Neither does He permit them. The biblical prophet Elijah, alone in prayer on his mountaintop, learned that God was not in a storm or a whirlwind, and that he need not be impressed by them. What was important to Elijah was the discovery of the ever-present “still small voice” of God that brought confidence and direction (see I Kings 19:9-12).
While tornadoes are not “acts of God,” God can certainly be found in healing and reconstruction after such events. There is typically an outpouring of humanitarian concern and the delivery of practical assistance to aid in recovery after a tsunami or an earthquake or a tornado. This is the inevitable action of the divine Love that is God, which awakens us to recognize our neighbors’ need and to try to meet it. God acts on the human consciousness to inspire these unselfish acts of relief and reconstruction.
This divine action is seen in efforts to comfort the bereaved and those who have lost everything. It is seen in volunteer work to rebuild homes, and in financial contributions to feed and shelter the homeless. It isn’t just about a good or idealistic human response to disaster; those engaged in these good responses, faced with the pressures of time and overwhelming demands, sometimes become fatigued or overwhelmed. We can lend our support by turning thought back to God in these instances. We can recognize these impulses to help as the inevitable expressions of the infinitely caring nature of God, our Father-Mother.
Seeing the divine source of these practical actions, everyone then can rely on the inexhaustible resources of God. Here, donor fatigue – where people just don’t want to hear about the problem anymore or have run out of resources to help – is not an issue.
God can be seen and relied on to inspire the reconstruction of Joplin and other cities that have been affected by disasters. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor, remarked, “Christian Science goes to the bottom of mental action, and reveals the theodicy which indicates the rightness of all divine action, as the emanation of divine Mind, and the consequent wrongness of the opposite so-called action ...” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 104). The rightness of divine action must be seen in the days, weeks, and months to come, showing that God has never abandoned His children in Missouri or any other place on earth.
For a list of organizations supporting relief efforts in Joplin, click here.
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