An “Act of God”?
Yesterday afternoon a massive tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, killing 91 people and leaving hundreds injured. In this moment, we are all shedding tears and saying a prayer for those grieving the loss of loved ones.
The level of devastation from one tornado is hard to comprehend. Where once families lived in tight-knit neighborhoods, in manner of minutes there are now heaps of rubble in the place they used to call home.
We are all reeling and trying to make sense of this, especially with Hurricane Sandy, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the explosion in West, Texas and the Boston Marathon Bombing fresh on our minds. Yet insurance adjustors will survey the damage and have an explanation ready: it will be labeled an “act of God.”
We shouldn’t let this label bleed over into how we make sense of this, because it doesn’t make sense. There is no tidy theological category that will explain the pain and suffering that has resulted. What we do know is this: in the midst of tragedy and loss of life, God is grieving and filled with compassion. This is a clue for how we are to response. Right now, in the midst of grief and great loss, our faith does not ask us to explain this. Instead our faith calls us to respond to it—with compassion and action.
As we do, let us remember the words of Psalm 46:1-3:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”
This doesn’t explain what happened, nor does it provide immediate relief from the pain and suffering. But it does give us a place to turn to find the comfort and strength we need to rebuild our lives in times of trouble.