On top of that I was assigned to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance task force for Cedar Rapids. I was literally working on a disaster recovery from the “Derecho” storm with 140 mph wind gusts. I was busy with extra planning and coordinating meetings. The brainstorming of how to do the most good seemed to be as chaotic as the storm.
Then, we had the worst kind of disaster. Scott and Amy Lowe lost their lives in a plane crash. A lovely family and community lost two souls who were a mom and dad, son and daughter, brother and sister, and fabulous friends.
My goodness, the week was a disaster. It’s enough to make a pastor sit down and reflect, “Where do I see God in the disasters of life?” I asked myself that question. I didn’t like where my mind took me.
As I ruminated, I came to the conclusion long reached by others, “2020 has been a disaster.” We have experienced Covid-19, race riots, economic insecurity, anxiety, and political divisions that are straining our emotional lives.
Knock, knock: “Hello, God? It’s me Trey. Can we talk?”
God and I spoke, not literally of course, but spiritually.
I recalled lessons from other pastors, teachers, devotions, and books I have read. It was like the Holy Spirit was bringing to mind memories about what I have learned about finding God in tragedy and chaos.
One of my favorite lessons from scriptures is the story of Elijah. Hiding in a cave, Elijah voices his complaint that all of God’s prophets had been killed by Jezebel and he alone had survived. God instructed him to stand on the mountain in God’s presence. Then the Lord sent a mighty wind which broke the rocks in pieces; then he sent an earthquake and a fire, but his voice was in none of them. After all that, the Lord spoke to Elijah in the still small voice, or “gentle whisper.”
The point of God speaking in the still small voice was to show Elijah that the work of God need not always be accompanied by dramatic revelation or manifestations. Divine silence does not necessarily mean divine inactivity. Zechariah 4:6 says God’s work is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” meaning that overt displays of power are not necessary for God to work.
But God is not limited in how God speaks. As one friend said after hearing this lesson about Elijah, “I don’t want my God to be quiet and passive.” God has also spoke loudly through the writers of Scripture. The common thread in all the prophets is the phrase, “Thus says the Lord.” Then they proclaim that the disastrous calamities shall not last. The people of God will rise again.
Most graciously, however, God speaks in times of Chaos through Jesus. The writer to the Hebrews opens his letter with this truth: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son who says, “My spirit is with you.” We are then instructed to heal the broken
hearted, give food and water to those in need, bring release and comfort from disaster.
God’s people have weathered disasters. They are more worn for having gone through a catastrophe. Yet, as one old saying goes (and pardon my language), “If you are going through hell, KEEP GOING!” As God’s people we have historically kept going! The Good News is that our ancestors made it through. However, it wasn’t on their strength alone. We find God’s strength in the disasters of life.
Rev. Trey Hegar