Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How Can We Respond to Calamity?

The human experience presents us with a never-ending series of challenges, difficulties, trials, tests and calamities. These types of experiences are common, though we are never quite prepared for them when they strike close to home. If we are caught in the brunt of the trouble, our senses tend to be overwhelmed, leaving us in a state of shock, hurt and confusion. If we are bystanders or on-lookers who do not have immediate solutions or practical relief, we often feel helpless or impotent in addressing the pain of others we see in front of us. We know that the words of comfort we often try to deliver seem trite and out of place in the face of horrific devastation. The monstrous tornado that leveled an Oklahoma community with a scope of destruction beyond the wildest nightmare has left many people in the position of asking questions and pondering the overall meaning of human existence.
It is natural to ask deep questions when calamity strikes. When Jesus walked the earth, He was asked on various occasions about tragedies that occurred in that day and sought for advice on how to handle such situations and what God thought about them. Jesus really did not directly answer such questions. In most, if not all, cases, He redirected the minds of the listeners to examine their own hearts and to be prepared for the tragedies and challenges that might come their way at an unexpected time. What kind of individual examination should we do when we find ourselves reeling as a collective community from unimaginable horrors? I believe there are Biblical admonitions to help us prepare for the unthinkable when it occurs:
We should clothe ourselves with humility. The book of James instructs us to tag our plans with a reminder of our limitations by stating, “If the Lord wills.” We are not absolutely sovereign with respect to the daily happenings of our lives. Should we plan, prepare and look forward to the future with hope and expectation? Absolutely! Nevertheless, we should also always leave a category in our thinking that allows for an abrupt change in plans when the unexpected invades our life path. That kind of thinking calls for humility and an admission on a cosmic level that life is not under my control.
We should orient our minds towards the service of others. We were not placed in the world to live in isolation or to be in a perpetual mode of self-preservation. We must seek at every possible opportunity to bless and be a blessing to others and to prepare ourselves for those extreme moments when our service to others may coast us everything. Those extreme moments may never come, but the less extreme ones certainly will. If we prepare our hearts, minds and hands to be helpful, we can make small scale differences that make the way for big time impact when the tough times arise.
We must accept our mortality and our immortality. Jesus constantly warned against living with only the here and now in mind. He declared with unmistakable clarity that those who only invested in the “here and now” were investing foolishly and headed for certain destruction. The Scriptures remind us that it is appointed for us to die – it will happen - then comes judgment. Are you living as if there is no eternity, storing up treasures that at the time of your passing at best will go to others you have appointed and at worst will simply rot, decay, and turn to literal dust? Jesus calls us to invest in people – eternal souls like ourselves who spirits will remain forever – and to serve others so that anyone watching will be able to understand the love God has for the world by our actions and through those actions give Him the glory!

Though I don’t have question ending answers for calamities like Oklahoma, I do feel that God has provided us with instructions. Though we may not ever understand the “whys”, we can engage the “what’s” and “how’s” – what we should do, and how we should do it. As John Wesley said,

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” That much I can do, as long as I have breath and strength. I pray that together we can spur each other on until our day comes and others will have to take up the charge! Pray for those who are struck down by tragedy and press on in this world by being a helpful and healing soul. Until next time….
Sam J.

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