Last night, a band of dangerous thunderstorms moved through our area and brought with them high winds and tornados. It was a harrowing time for some people and the damage while isolated, was significant. As is typical of these times of natural destruction, the pain and destruction were deemed, "an act of God," by media and others.
It is interesting that God gets the blame for these events when, in fact, they are more directly acts of nature. It seems easy to lay the responsibility with God as if God said, "Let's send some damaging storms their way and see what happens." God ends up looking like the ancient Greek and Roman gods who often found pleasure in playing with and tormenting humanity, and nothing could be further from the truth.
In tragic situations, I frequently hear people ask, "why did God do this?" Such a question is understandable in the midst of crisis, but it betrays an underlying belief that God is directly responsible for the bad things that happen. Yes, there are biblical stories that show some natural disasters as expressions of God's judgement, but these are very specific instances. Nowhere, do we find every bad experience the result of a direct action from God. I suppose, part of this struggle comes from our understanding of God's power and direction in our lives, but these attitudes often separate God's power, direction, and judgement from God's mercy, grace, and love, and that is a serious flaw.
Yes, bad things happen, but God's creative power is at work in the darkest of moments bringing illumination. The power of the resurrection can transform our experiences of pain and suffering into something amazing and life-giving. Sometimes, bad things happen. Evil exists in the world, yet the Spirit of God is always at work in and through us to overcome evil and bring forth life from death.
Instead of naming disasters "acts of God," maybe we should begin to declare unmerited blessings and healing as those holy acts. In moments of grace, forgiveness, and hope, we see the acts of God. With expressions of love, kindness and community, we see the acts of God. In places of sacrifice, service, and salvation, we see the acts of God.
This is the great message of the Gospel, not that God is a punitive, angry deity, but that God is gracious and long-suffering, full of mercy, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. The revelation of God is not to be found in thunderstorms and tornados, but in places of providence and protection, and in the lives of those who bring healing and love. In these places of compassion, we see the tender heart of God acting in love toward humanity.
People may never stop referring to disasters as, "acts of God," but we have the opportunity to be the body of Christ; the representatives of God, and show the world what God is really like. We can be the hands of action that show compassion. We can be the voice of peace, hope and love. We can offer the ministry of our presence that reflects the truth of God's presence with us. We can align our heart with the heart of God and, allowing the Spirit to work though us, make our actions, expressions of the real acts of God.
Opportunities are all around us. Where will we begin?