A few years ago I was told about a conversation that transpired between an individual who had lost a loved one on September 11th, and my chaplain friend who spoke to him. The conversation centered around where was God on September 11th, and where is He when bad things and devastating events like hurricanes and tornadoes occur. Whenever I hear that statement I am reminded of my father’s frequently used comment, “There weren’t any atheists in the foxhole,” in reference to his time in the trenches of World War II. My father was not a particularly spiritual person when I was growing up so I never quite understood what he was referring to until recent years, when I starting doing crisis and disaster work.
No matter what a person’s spiritual state may be, when confronted with horrific life threatening events the questions of God almost always arise. It is why I love doing what I do, and why I wince when I hear of organizations that go in to a situation with the main goal of enlarging their religious entity or belief system. I am a Jesus lover – through and through – but when I go in to help hurting people, it is with the hope that they will see and feel the love of Jesus in and through my compassionate acts, and nothing else – love for loves sake and nothing else.
So, where is God in all of this? Where is Jesus? A lot of opinions get thrown around at times like this and with them poor examples of the faith I hold dear. Some people feel the need to force God into natural events and man made disasters for answers. We live in a fallen world- we live in a world full of scientific mysteries and wonders – things happen – weather happens – bad things happen.
In the Hebrew scriptures in the book of I Kings, Chapter 11, verses 11 to 12, the Lord spoke to a traumatized Prophet Elijah who had been hiding in a cave after the slaughter of many… It went like this:
“Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”
Where was God in the tornado? He wasn’t in the damaging winds, or the flooding waters of Sandy, or the ripping Tsunami in Japan, or the bombings, or shootings, or earthquakes, or gas chambers, or any other devastating event; God is in the gentle whisper. He is in the rescue workers who tire endlessly to find survivors, in the people running shelters and feeding sites – He is in the neighbors who pull together, the teachers who hovered over children to protect them, the people who travel from near and far to cut trees and sift through debris, the nurses and doctors who work tirelessly, the chaplain and pastors who comfort and clothe… Hopefully God will be seen in me.
God is in the still small voice that says, “I love you, and I will be with you through every breath you take calling you to myself. Beloved, I am here, see me.” That is where God was. That is where God always is.
Note: More on the trauma of the prophet Elijah can be found at my other blog: