Tonight makes one week since an EF-2 tornado touched down one mile from here and cut a jagged path of destruction for a little over five miles. It was only on the ground for a few minutes but that was enough to change lives forever. I had seen the results of tornadoes and hurricanes before moving up here so the carnage is all too familiar to me. Truthfully, I have seen much worse along the Gulf coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. I have seen much worse in my home town of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I am fully aware of the destructive power of wind and water. This storm system did not kill anyone and there were no serious injuries reported. That alone is a miracle. When you look at the numbers, it affected only a small number of people. It would be easy to be write it off as an insignificant event. However, to those who were touched (quite literally) by the twister; life is different now.
I am encouraged to see that neighbors have stepped up and stood alongside those who now have to rebuild. There is something about a disaster that causes people to push aside whatever issues they have with one another and help. I am also encouraged to see people from our congregation stepping in and getting involved. We are a small group with limited resources but the response has been humbling. It is good to see God’s people acting like God’s people. I don’t know that I have ever been more proud to say that I am the preacher at Granville Center Church of Christ than I am right how. I am blessed to be among such loving people.
I do want to explain the title of this post. During one of my conversations last week I heard someone say, “I am kinda mad with God right now.” The logic was that God had spared some houses but not theirs. I will be honest. I can understand. Sometimes things just don’t seem fair. Those who make it through the storm unscathed thank God for sparing us. What about those who lost everything? How do they feel when we talk about God watching out for us? Does that mean God wasn’t watching out for them or worse…does He have something against them? Sometimes I get questions that I just can’t answer. “Where was God?” is one of them. I can give all the Sunday School answers I know but sometimes they just aren’t enough. They don’t bring the joy, the peace, or the hope that God says we can have.
I hate giving cliche’ answers and I especially hate throwing out cliche’ Bible verses in times when people are truly hurting and wanting comfort. Romans 8:28 is one of those but the older I get and the more life I experience I realize that it really isn’t a cliche’ at all. It is the truth. God does work through these bad things. We may not see it at the time and we may suffer greatly but I do believe a time will come when we are able to look back and see He was there all along. I really didn’t know what to say to those who were angry at God and before I had a chance to potentially make things worse the same person said, “Even though I’m mad I know He is going to do something good from this.” There it was. The cliche’ answer coming from the lips of one who admitted the pain and the confusion.
In my sermon this past Sunday I said that hope is a gift from God. I really do believe that. I don’t know how I would get through this world without it. Even when life is difficult and there is pain I have hope that it is temporary and one day Jesus will make it all right. That’s the only thing I can cling to sometimes. It takes faith and I believe that’s a gift from God as well. There’s an event in the life of Jesus where a father comes to him asking for his son to be healed. Jesus has been up on the mountain with Peter, James, and John. They have experienced a true “mountain top” moment and have come down to discover that the remaining apostles have failed to help this man. Jesus asks this father, who is hurting for his son, if he believes. The man’s response is powerful. Mark 9:24 (CSB) words it like this:
Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”
How many times have I had to pray that same prayer? How many times has my faith been shaken to the core? How many times have I been angry and cried out? Sometimes the only thing we can say when it feels like God isn’t there is:
Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.
Grace and peace.
The remains of the old East Granville Baptist Church at Bailey Corners. Taken by the author on June 15, 2018.