OUR OPINION: God is present, even in disaster

In the days following the tornado that tore through Tupelo, Lee County and Itawamba County, the miracle of the loss of only one life has been repeatedly cited as the one saving grace of the storm. It could have been so much worse.

Other areas were not so fortunate. In addition to one death in Lee County, there were 13 other deaths just in Mississippi the same day – most of them in Louisville and Winston County.

Naturally those whose lives are spared are thankful to God. But who dies and who doesn’t in a natural disaster – not to mention whose home is demolished and whose doesn’t have a scratch – raises the perennial question of where God is in the deciding.

Pondering the question is a slippery slope. If we survive a disaster without losing our lives or the lives of loved ones, or if we escape property damage while others lose everything, does it mean that God heard our prayers and not those of others? Why do some suffer and others do not – having seemingly nothing to do with their piety or virtue, or even as Job lamented, sometimes in inverse proportion to it?

In his popular classic, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” Rabbi Harold Kushner discussed the problems with automatically assuming that God chooses, willy nilly, to allow some to avoid suffering while afflicting others, to decide who lives and who dies, whose prayers are heard and answered and whose are not.

Whether it’s about illness, calamity or any form of suffering, Kushner wrote, “I can’t believe that God chooses to hear the prayers of some and not of others. There would be no discernible rhyme or reason to his doing that. No research into the lives of those who died and those who survived would help us learn how to live or how to pray so that we too would win God’s favor.

“When miracles occur and people beat their odds against survival,” Kushner continued, “we would be well-advised to bow our heads in thanks at the presence of a miracle, and not think that our prayers, contributions or abstentions are what did it.”

Does that mean we shouldn’t pray for God’s protection and miraculous presence? Of course not. But it does mean we should not assume that we somehow have God’s favor over someone else because we were spared suffering in a particular circumstance.

God is with us, everywhere and always. That is God’s promise to the faithful, and it is enough of a miracle by itself.

  • Mikoma

    Excellent column! Thank you for your public expression of your faith.

  • barney fife

    The invisible man in the sky cares & loves everyone so much he has to throw natural disasters at them just to remind them that he exists.
    Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny are real too.

    • Christopher

      Someday soon my friend you will know. I hope you know in time. MGB.

  • 1941641

    Over two hundred Tupeloans died in the 1936 tornado. In one home on S.Thomas St., 13 members of the same family (a mother and father and 11 of their children”) all perished that day. The house they were in was torn to shreds. Their remains were buried in coffins in a mass grave in the Auburn Community Cemetery. (You can read the story in the Daily Journal archives. Written by Phyllis Harper.)

    Where was God that Sunday afternoon? You know, I’m inclined to think that the power of God is merely a matter of one’s own self-inspired delusion. Some people call it a “miracle of God” especially in instances where they survive unscathed from natures destructive forces. It’s not at all difficult for me to decide if this family was subjected to “God’s Miracles” or to “God’s Wrath” the latter seems to fit the situation best.

    Perhaps it happened because this family “just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The last alternative, leaving God out of the mix, makes more sense to me.

    • Christopher

      May God bless you and help you with your confusion. I’m not really well equipped enough to do the subject justice. Earth wasn’t SUPPOSED to be a paradise. That was lost in the Garden of Eden. Prayers to you.

      • 1941641

        Who could forget the “Garden Of Eden Story” with one of the main points made in it being the presence of a “Talking Snake”! Robert Ingersoll Rationalism to You! Sorry for all the “Confusion”!

  • Winston Smith

    Geez, what a blessing..

  • heathertruett

    Thank you for sharing. As a follower of Christ, I struggle to hear survivors claim their luck as blessing. Not b/c I don’t believe God CAN choose to save someone or not, but because it implies others who lost more were not blessed. It implies natural disaster as judgment, and I don’t think that’s the case. Natural disaster is natural. Sometimes, I think God DOES reach down and protect someone or change something. But I am hesitant to claim blessing over what may be a combo of good sense and physics.

    It is amazing that more lives were not lost in our area. When I look at the debris, it blows my mind.