Rev. Bruce E. Stanley, President and CEO of Methodist Home for Children writes: As I witnessed the west coast suffering conflagration and my home state of West Virginia suffering inundation, these bookends of devastation were near to overwhelming. Posts on social media from my Mountaineer friends make it clear that people are struggling to understand not only what has happened but why. Hearing that the WV floods are a “500 year storm” offers meteorological context but not theological comfort. As these literal storms occur in the midst of the figurative storms of stressed personal lives it is easy to become undone. It is perhaps for us unavoidable to ask “where is God?”
The Old Testament Lectionary readings these past few weeks have been from I Kings – The Elijah Cycle. The timing for we, the people of faith, could not be better. In I Kings 19 :11 and 12, it says “Now there was a great wind so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake, and after the earthquake a fire but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire there was a still, small voice.” Scripture is clear that our world is an unsafe place. The story of the Fall of Adam and Eve is not only about our individual brokenness, but about ALL creation being broken. Paul writes in Romans 8:22 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning…” These groans include the ashes of fires, muck from a flood, trees down in a hurricane and crops withered by drought.
Creation also includes our frail, physical bodies and fragile psyches. As part of creation we, too, groan.
I Kings 19 is clear that God is present throughout our disasters but is not the causal agent of them. We take comfort that as storm after storm occurred, that the voice of God was there to guide and lead Elijah with a way forward. In our own homes, in the homes of those “children, youth and their families we serve” we know storms occur. Our knowing this is the motivation for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with one another helping people to be comforted until these storms are passed. We join our voice to the “still, small voice” with which God leads Elijah. In times when the storms of life, literal and figurative are the worst, may God enable all of us to give our best.