Many believe Hurricane Harvey is the worst natural disaster in Texas history. While that remains to be seen, it has unquestionably brought about great destruction and caused widespread damage. The news is filled with heart-wrenching stories of loss, ruin, and misery.
As followers of Jesus, how are we to respond to all of this? Surely, staring wide-eyed at the news for hours on end and simply remaining informed isn’t sufficient. So what steps of response should we take, as God’s image-bearers, when disaster strikes? Let us learn from our beloved Savior.
Grieve. The untold suffering caused by such natural disasters makes us long for shalom, the peace of God. In our turmoil, we instinctively know this is not how it ought to be. And so we grieve, and we grieve with those who grieve. In doing so, we follow the kind example of Jesus. When Lazarus died, and Jesus saw the sorrow of Mary, “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” And, the Gospel says, “Jesus wept” (John 11:33, 35). Oh, can you even imagine such a scene? So when we see people suffering, let us have the heart of Jesus and weep for them. Or, perhaps, you are the one experiencing grief? Dear friend, join with Mary, and behold a Savior who weeps for you, who cares for you.
Remember. Whatever you do, don’t allow the media to write the Story that narrates, defines, and interprets such disasters. Your mind will mainly be attuned to and formed by earthly, civil, and political affairs. You will find yourself sourly saying with Mary, “Lord, if you had been here…” Indeed, Lazarus died because Jesus was late. That was the Story on the ground. Of course, what happened next changed everybody’s perspective, as Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead. But here’s the deal: even before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead – in that window of time filled with intense grief, loss, and confusion – it was still important to remember Jesus, who he was and what he was about. His identity and purpose. Yes, before (!) he raised Lazarus, Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” When we are in that window of intense suffering, let us remember who is with us: Jesus, the resurrection and the life. And let us remember it’s his Story.
Restore. Ever since shalom was lost, God’s promise to bring healing and redemption to the world has remained. He promised a new heaven and a new earth, where the peace of God flows like a river. Jesus demonstrated the powerful reality of God’s promised kingdom. In the presence of Jesus, the blind could see, the deaf could hear, and the lame could walk. Those labeled as sinful outcasts – whether they be lepers, adulteresses, or traitors – experienced the warmth of kindness, forgiveness, and love from Jesus. And Lazarus, whose cold body had the stench and odor of death, was raised from the dead. Jesus overturned the brokenness of the world and he sends us out to do the same. We bring restoration to the world by following the example of Jesus: worshiping God, serving people, praying for people, and speaking the truth in love to people – we show God’s kingdom to the world.
Such a response is deeply rewarding and physically taxing. Jesus didn’t take naps because he was lazy, but because he was spent. He emptied himself. In love, let us pour ourselves out by grieving with those who grieve and doing the hard work of restoration, never forgetting our beloved Savior and his Story.
In these dark days of tragedy, this blessing is a like soothing balm:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26, ESV