The storms: What went wrong?

Had he ask’d us, well we know
We should cry, oh spare this blow!
Yes, with streaming tears should pray,
“Lord, we love him, let him stay!”
But the Lord doth nought amiss,
And since He hath order’d this,
We have nought to do but still
Rest in silence on His will.
Many a heart no longer here,
Ah! was all too inly dear;
Yet, O Love, ‘t is Thou doat call,
Thou wilt be our All in all.
— Aller Glaubigen Sammelplatz
Chr. Gregor, 1778

Parents burying children is wrong; it is not supposed to be this way. Yet, there are many stories of college students lost in the storm. There are many stories of pediatric codes in Emergency Rooms on the night of the storms, and many of those stories ended in death. So, what went wrong? There were warnings. There was television coverage. There were even dramatic videos of the storms ravaging our towns and cities.

Over at James Spann’s weather blog, Bill Murray asks that same question. His answer is simple: “drive to any number of locations from Hackleburg to Phil Campbell to Tuscaloosa to Hueytown to Pleasant Grove to McDonald’s Chapel to Pratt City to Cullman to Ohatchee to Harvest to Cordova to Argo to a number of other places. They will find tornado damage that was nearly unsurvivable unless you were under ground in a reinforced shelter.”

Unsurvivable.

There is nothing we can do when standing before the power of the whirlwind. It reveals our frailty; it exposes our hubris—that belief that the work of our own hands can save us. If anything the Gulf oil spill illustrated that often the product of our ingenuity causes us difficulty. Now, these storms highlighted how little protection we have in the face of nature.

So what went wrong? Is it the design of this world? Is it God’s fault? How can a benevolent Creator allow such death?

Last week while sitting in church, the sermon was on the lessons from the resurrection of Lazarus. There were many things to take home. Perhaps the most memorable came from that shortest of verses: Jesus wept. In those two words we find the fullness of the Godhead dwelling bodily (Col. 2:8-9) understands the depth of our despair. As St. Hilary of Poitiers wrote in 360 A.D., “for by the bodily indwelling of the incorporeal God in Christ is taught the strict unity of Their nature. It is, therefore, not a matter of words, but a real truth that the Son was not alone, but the Father abode in Him: and not only abode, but also worked and spoke: not only worked and spoke, but also manifested Himself in Him.” Thus through the earthly presence of God in the person of Christ, we know that he understands our grief. He wept; and when Jesus wept, God wept.

But if God knows our sorrow at loss, and knows this world leads us to sorrow , how can we reconcile his allowing catastrophe? In the 12th century Rabbi Moses Maimonides wrote, “The book which enlightened the darkness of the world says therefore, ‘And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good’ (Gen. i. 31). Even the existence of this corporeal element, low as it in reality is, because it is the source of death and all evils, is likewise good for the permanence of the Universe and the continuation of the order of things, so that one thing departs and the other succeeds. Rabbi Meir therefore explains the words “and behold it was very good” (tob me‘od); that even death was good in accordance with what we have observed in this chapter. Remember what I said in this chapter, consider it, and you will understand all that the prophets and our Sages remarked about the perfect goodness of all the direct works of God. In Bereshit Rabba (chap. i.) the same idea is expressed thus: ‘No evil comes down from above.’”

Perhaps there is no perfect answer. As St. Paul told us, we see through a glass darkly. We comprehend partly. For some it is enough to know God is in control. But as the Rabbi said, God created existence. Our existence is corporeal and limited, yet still good.

Even in the depths there is good to be seen. As Cecil Hurt pointed out in his column today, “There will continue to be stories about athletes and others who have helped, and we will report them here. But when you read them, no matter where you helped, with dauntless heroics or a simple bottle of water or an encouraging word, you aren’t just reading about someone on a team you support. You – every heroic one of you – will be reading about a teammate.”

How we respond to situations like this reveals character. While we cannot prevent disaster, we can work to ameliorate the suffering. It was to end suffering that Christ came into the world—to restore us to a relationship with God. It was the lesson of Easter. And so in the aftermath of Easter we should take the teaching of Christ and put it into practice—so that a little bit of good can be seen in us.