If complex issues were solved easily, the question “Where is God in the storm?” would not recur again and again. This realization and the memory of Job is a good beginning point. God asked Job and Job responded “’Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.’” Although usually denied, Job’s problem is nearly universal. We often think we know when we do not.
Comfort or fear accompanies the knowledge that the big rocks in God’s will cannot long be avoided. Because we live in the Ozarks it shouldn’t be too difficult for us to picture in our minds children playing beside a stream only a short distance below a spring at the pinnacle of the ridge where it began. There among the rocks and the trees the water bubbles forth from the ground with the single intention of going its way down the side of the ridge and emptying into the river many miles away. The stream with the help of the little spring strives to find the shortest path to its goal; the river.
The little children playing along the banks of this little stream have another idea in mind however. They find that they can divert the stream and get great fun out of damming it up with stones and earth. But not one of them ever succeeds in preventing the water from reaching the river at last. It always manages to find a crack in their earthworks or a way to skirt the edge.
We, like these little children, cannot prevent the water, the stream of the will of God, from reaching the river of His destination.
Disaster, sorrow and confusion are temporary even when they feel eternal. It is ultimately impossible to prevent the success of the big rocks in God’s will. Evil may defeat good, temporarily. Natural disasters may mar the perfection of God’s creation, temporarily. The stream of God’s ultimate will can be diverted, temporarily.
What is God’s will? Three verses in the Bible make it crystal clear. God says through the prophet Jeremiah “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Matthew records Jesus saying, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Finally, John summarizes the purpose and will of the Son of God when he records Jesus saying, “The thief [i.e. Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” God’s will is always good!
Not seeing everything, good and bad, as God’s will has its detractors. It is said sometimes that tragedies bring comfort, create noble qualities, or are necessary. While it may make it easier in the moment to bear a thing if it is believed to be God’s will, taking refuge in a lie is akin to taking refuge in a flimsy plywood storm shelter rather than one made of stone. It will let you down when it is needed most.
Tragedy doesn’t create noble qualities such as courage, it reveals them. Similarly, if tragedy is essential because of the qualities evoked, it would mean God needs evil to produce good. Those same qualities may be revealed as a response to goodness.
We live in a fallen world that moves slowly toward restoration in its relationship with the Creator. Events and people may divert the stream of God’s ultimate good will for a time. Nevertheless, over time and space the stream of God’s justice, mercy, and salvation will arrive at the destination of God’s choice. Those who yearn for these gifts from God, like the stream, must persevere through diversions and obstacles. Faith in God through Jesus Christ will carry the Christ follower to blessing.
Where was God in Joplin, Moore, and other disasters and catastrophes? He walked beside those in pain and sorrow as well as through those grateful for what was left. No one was ever alone or forgotten. He gave wisdom, strength and hope through person after person in order to guide us to blessing in spite of Satan’s attempts to keep God’s goodness from us.