I’m no theologian, but sometimes I wonder if God allows natural disasters just to give us an opportunity to play nice with each other.
I hate hurricanes! However, after experiencing several of them since moving to Florida, I have to admit in a weird sort of way I enjoy the preparation before the storm and the camaraderie and unity amongst neighbors that follows, despite likely home repairs and insurance claims. Don’t get me wrong; all the in-between stuff freaks me out – crashing trees and branches, sustained winds that sound like a freight train tiptoeing over your rooftop shingles, the ensuing darkness and heat after your power is loss, gas shortages and figuring out if you have enough food and water to sustain you until power is restored – none of that is fun.
For several days leading up to Hurricane Irma’s landfall, I totally tuned out from politics. The news just doesn’t matter when you’re facing a perceived existential threat to your life, home and livelihood. My wife and I boarded up our windows and collected any debris that could’ve been used as a projectile with hurricane winds approaching. We proceeded to do the same for several of our neighbors that needed help. I don’t share this to toot my own horn, but to illustrate that charity and kindness is normative in the face of a natural disaster. Politics, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, even disputes amongst neighbors shrink in the face of danger, but what happens afterward has to put a smile on the Lord’s face.
On my block alone, I witnessed four men, including myself, from different backgrounds with distinct worldviews take charge and reach out to help their neighbors in need. As you know, I’m a Christian and conservative Republican. Another gentleman is a left-wing professor at an exclusive private college here in Orlando. Another is a Russian immigrant with a Planetarian worldview, and yet another has a libertarian bent. Despite our philosophical and ethnic differences, after Irma passed, we were simply people helping people.
America isn’t what we watch on the nightly news. Most of us have no idea what political persuasion or religious background, if any at all, our neighbors hold. We’re not enemies. Natural disasters have the unique ability to expose our basic needs, while at the same time bring out the best in most and the worst in some. We all need food and drink. We all want to be wanted and loved. We all want to be affirmed, and we all want help when we’re in need.
When natural disasters strike, the easiest question to ask is “Where is God?” God works through his people, and for those that aren’t Christ followers, His laws are etched on their hearts. Except that we live in a fallen world, I can’t explain why God allows natural disasters. However, I believe they serve as an opportunity to both humble us and to practice compassion toward our fellow man.
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) reads, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” It’s no coincidence that we grow closer to God in bad times, rather than good. It is also no coincidence that more people feel compelled to help one another in times of common suffering.
I don’t like natural disasters, but I’m thankful to God for giving us all opportunities to love one another in the midst of what’s been the most politically and racially divisive years I can remember.