COLUMBIA — In 1993 I served in St. Charles for flood duty with The Salvation Army. That was my first experience helping people who have lost everything because of a natural disaster.
I was spiritually and emotionally overtaken by what I saw, thinking how and why this had happened to that community. The residents affected by the natural disaster had reached a very low point in their lives. I noticed the hopelessness and pain all over their faces; these folks had lost it all.
One lady I prayed with was very upset with God. I recall her saying, “Why would a God of love and grace cause this to happen?” That woman questioned God. Was she right or wrong for responding that way?
We all question God from time to time when events of life cause us pain and discomfort. I prayed with that lady that God would give her, and the community as a whole, a renewed sense of hope to face an extraordinary tragedy that would change them for the rest of their lives. The promise we have from the Bible concerning hope is found in Hebrews 6:19, which says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Our service to humanity is one of devotion to God’s people during every circumstance of life — good, bad or indifferent. Consider that God committed His Son, Jesus, to the world, even when the world abandoned Him. His compassion grew even more, because of His love for the world. Isaiah 49:13 reads, “For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.” I believe God calls us to respond the same when disasters blindside us or a catastrophic incident comes out of nowhere.
Let’s remain dedicated to holding on to our faith as unfortunate events come our way. Dedication is social, spiritual and emotional bricklaying in the lives of people in need of a Savior to help them when they are helpless. It is a real obligation to the Lord’s purpose whether we understand it or not, which might mean getting dirty in the ditches of our community.
God wants us to be blissful in hope, tolerant in torment and authentic with our prayers as the anguishes of life happen to us. Whether our situation is easy or hard, we need to remain faithful to God. The answers will come, maybe not in our time, but certainly in God’s time. I am told that God is never late, that He is always on time. Yes, even in a disaster, God is on time.
Recently, I returned from duty in the St. Louis area at the disaster there that badly damaged the airport and several communities throughout this region. My heart was hurting to see firsthand the power of a natural disaster — it can bring utter destruction at a blink of an eye. Homes were ripped apart, trees were uprooted, power lines laid lifeless on the ground and some residents, who lost everything they had, were wandering about.
In the midst of that hardship I noticed that people were helping each other without asking any questions.
One lady said to me, “We must be here for one another, that’s what community is all about.” I can’t agree with her more. When we as a society seem to be at our lowest point, it is then that we can gain strength through those around us and be victorious. Jesus Christ endured the cross and was put to death — and then made alive, to bring us to God.
So through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention in adoration before Him. He knows that through His suffering, those without hope would have a foundation for overcoming trials. I want to be an overcomer of perplexities of life, don’t you? I want to have victory over the pitfalls and trials of this world, including the current disasters throughout our great state of Missouri.
Here is a prayer that might be helpful as we experience personal and natural disasters: “Lord, I’m thankful for the trials and adversities of this world because I know You hold my future in the palm of Your hand. So as the winds blow and the storms rage, I rest assured, knowing You will not put on me more than I can bear. Help me communicate this to others around me during times of personal and natural hardship.”
As we face hardships of many kinds, let us keep our eyes on the grace and endless goodness of God. He is a God of love. God says, “Call me, and I’ll answer and be at your side in terrible times. I’ll rescue you and then throw you a heavenly celebration. Don’t doubt, but have faith in me.”
Remember, God is a safe place to hide and is ready to help when we need Him. We can stand unafraid at the cliff’s edge of disaster, courageous in floods, tornadoes and earthquakes.
May the God of all bring you peace and courage.
Major K. Kendall Mathews is the regional coordinator for The Salvation Army.