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While writing a post about Hurricane Sandy and its broader impact, I came across this blog entry from The Thoughtful Pastor. I was frankly aghast to read her first paragraph. I had to temporarily abandon my initial blog post and reply.
This was her first paragraph:
I guess I just don’t get the “Blame God for Hurricane Sandy” thing that is being tossed around. Although I suppose I should: it all fits with the “Divine Butler-god” that I’ve written about before. As long as we get what we want (good weather for weekends, sports events and campouts) then God has been nice and obedient and fitting well within the lines we’ve drawn. But the moment things get just a bit out of control (that would be our control, not God’s), then we are all over that Holy One with our complaints about what an awful person (!) God is and how terribly disappointed we are. Our next performance review will certainly reflect that disappointment, and we will strongly suggest God take steps to do better next time.
I will say that the blog gets better. She goes on to say some very beautiful and wise things (no snark…they are wise) about how the heroes who emerge in the wake of such a storm will be the ones who ask what God wants of them in the light of such tragedy. I’m posting my response on my blog (and not just as a comment to hers) because I know how easy it is to forget the perspective of the people we write about. I’m writing this on my blog as a reminder to myself for future blogs as well as a caution to the author of The Thoughtful Pastor.
Christy, I like many things about this entry, but I wish it was published a couple months later. The reality is that I agree with just about everything you said, but if I put myself in the shoes of people I know in New Jersey, I know I’d really struggle with your words.
I don’t know who specifically you were responding to, but the people I know who question God in this time are not angry because they can’t have a nice weekend on the golf course. They’re angry because 80% of their city…not just their house…THEIR CITY is under water. They’re angry because their jobs washed away with their homes and a lack of electricity matters–really, really matters–when it’s 42 degrees outside and you have an infant to care for.
I have a lot of family and friends in NJ. One of whose spouse just lost his job and whose infant shivers because there’s no electricity…all because of some storm that ripped mindlessly through her town. She has a right to challenge and question God. I think she is blessed because of it.
The people of God aren’t named “Abraham” after the paragon of obedience. They are instead named “Israel.” “One who wrestles with God. ” Questioning and challenging God, screaming at the Almighty over the roar of destructive wind is right and good and blessed.
“What does God expect of me?” is a critical question to ask, but I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that many of the heroes of faith and the heroes who will emerge after this storm will first have to say, “God, I expected a lot more from you.” I can’t imagine saying to a mother whose children were literally ripped from her arms by the greedy tides that “you shouldn’t be pissed at God. Ask what God expects from you right now.” I think that all God expects of that mother is to survive.
This is going to sound patronizing of me so I apologize to anyone hurt by this storm who reads this. There is a necessary sensitivity to our words in the face of human suffering. If the victims (and yes, they are victims) stay too long in this place of challenge and struggle, then they miss the opportunity to answer the call to serve and rise up and rebuild and resurrect. Job wrestles with God for chapters and chapters and chapters until finally God hears enough and slaps him back into place. But God does give space for Job to wrestle.
I would humbly request, that you would give space to the victims of Sandy to wrestle as well.