I can't get the mud slide in Oso out of my mind...so devastating and horrific. When natural disasters occur other places in the world, like the tsunamis in Thailand or Japan, we pray and send support and look at photos or video coverage but it doesn't really hit home. For those of us living in Snohomish County, WA the mudslide last Saturday morning hit home...very close to home.
As the stories of the devastation and loss come forward, many of us know someone who was impacted by this disaster. As we hear of the electrician who died simply because he was going out to fix a broken water heater for the new homeowner who had just purchased the home the week before, or the grandma who stayed home to care for her 4 month old granddaughter so her daughter could go to the gym, or the husband and wife watching TV across the room from each other and the husband survived but his wife died because the house was ripped in two...and those who survived simply because they chose to go buy groceries that morning or run an errand...we can feel like life is random, hit or miss. We are left with many questions...why were there no recent warning signs that the hill was so unstable ...why that part of the hill?...why did some survive or get rescued but others did not...and...why would God allow this to happen to innocent people?
That's the tough one...where is God when natural disasters or accidents or shootings happen? As I listened to an interview with the young mother who lost her own mother and 4 month old baby girl, she kept saying..."they were just here...", I could relate to the sense of shock and difficulty she was having wrapping her mind around the sudden loss. As you may know, my parents were killed in a car accident years ago. My mother died at the scene and Dad died the next morning at Harborview. They lived next door to me...sharing a driveway. For days after the accident, I would reach for the phone to call them or start to walk over to their home to tell them something and have to stop myself...they are not here.
We like life to be pretty predictable...we esteem those who are careful planners of their future. Yes, we enjoy pleasant surprises once in a while, but not unpleasant ones, and definitely not ones that involve the loss of someone dear or a place we have called home. Yet, the reality in this life is that we are not in control....bad things do happen to good people. I choose to believe that my life is part of a grander story, and God is the author. And like any good story, things sometimes take an unexpected twist or turn, and there is pain and darkness...because only then, can there be redemption. The Bible encourages us to use our pain and sorrows to comfort others, as it says in II Corinthians 1: 3-4, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort that we have received from God." God is sovereign...He is in control....and I don't have any answers to those tough questions. I wish I did. I do believe what the scriptures say in Isaiah 55:8-9, "For your thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."
Life is never the same after a catastrophic loss...and the saying that "time heals all wounds" or there is such a thing as "closure" is rarely true. A time to grieve is necessary and even healthy. Yet, life itself and those who remain around us force us to move onward...simply, to live. Hopefully, we do live differently...holding material things lightly and deeply valuing our relationships with our loved ones...thankful for each day....looking for the good...appreciating beauty...clinging to faith....granting grace...knowing that life is fragile. And, we continue to pray to our God of all comfort, for the families and friends touched by this disaster, for the first responders and volunteers performing such a difficult task, for the government officials making critical decisions, for the hurting in the schools and community...and look for ways to support them in practical ways. Our thoughts are with Oso.