Our prayers are with those in Oklahoma

The scenes showing on the news of the tornado in Oklahoma are just heart breaking. As a child growing up in Texas, I only experienced one tornado while I was at school, and it was nothing like these poor little ones have gone through.

We got a commentary up on tomorrowsworld.org and lcg.org on the Oklahoma tornado, and my hats are off to our editorial, legal, and internet folks for working so fast to get it out today. My apologies for taking so long to write it. I did not find out about the tornado until late last night (actually early this morning) and was in a bit of a “news-free bubble” before that. On finding out, it was hard to go to sleep. What a horrible world this is. It is not the world our Father would have it to be, which was part of the theme from the resulting commentary. The commentary can be found here: “This Is Not Our Father’s World.” But rather than reproduce it here (though, please do read it), I thought I would add some additional thoughts.

Although the logical “problem of evil” is generally considered by those in philosophical circles to be an ultimately unsustainable argument against God’s existence with many paths available for resolving the problem (among them, importantly, the one God reveals to be true!) and the ends of theodicy (sounds like a book by Homer, doesn’t it?) have generally been successfully achieved, it doesn’t diminish the emotional problem of evil… It may be fairly easy to understand, intellectually, how such things can happen, it is still hard to grasp emotionally. And part of me wonders if that should always be a struggle. Perhaps it should take us to our edges, which is where struggles take place, as long as it doesn’t take us beyond them. Perhaps that reflects a dissatisfaction with the way things are and is a reflection of our desire that it be otherwise. I’m not sure, and I will have to think about that a bit more.

Regardless, I personally believe that God feels–in a real way–the same way we do, only more so. The apparently machine-like pseudo-consciences of those like the Westboro Baptist crowd are a mockery of how God feels about suffering and His sense of justice, and I can’t but imagine that the “hands off” policy His plan requires of Him during this time is so much harder for Him than we can grasp, even as His knowledge that it is necessary is more sure than ours. By “harder” I mean more painful to go through, not harder to accomplish, and I don’t think that is a contradiction, even if it seems so at first. (I’m open to being shown where I’ve messed up, by the way.) While we reel at the pictures and the video footage, God was so much more acutely and intimately aware of the suffering. He heard every cry–indeed, every fleeting, scared, panicked thought–of every victim, and every anguished sob from a devastated parent is known to him in its incomprehensibly staggering fullness. I truly can’t imagine that He does not want to bring His kingdom and end this madness infinitely more than we do, let alone the passionate desire He must have to raise those lost back to life and to see them once again in their family’s arms in a world where no such things will ever happen again.

Knowing that there will be more of these things–only more so–as pointed out by prophecy, it should truly make us sigh and cry. It is my understand that no Living Church of God members were harmed in this outbreak, for which I am so thankful, though we know that will not always be the case, and it is there but for the grace of God that we go, ourselves. The next one could come right down my own street, and that could be me pulling my children out of the rubble. The thought is almost too much to bear. I pray that I could have the presence of character and walk with God that Job must have had even before his trials such that when those trials did come he could respond in the way he did:

Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22)

While I would know this to be true in my head, how hard it would be to be a parent in Oklahoma and have that come truly from my heart as it did for Job. To be honest, I don’t know if I am there yet in my walk with God, though, should he choose my family for such a trial, I pray that I would be. And, of course, I know Philippians 4:13 is mercifully true.

Sorry for being a bit rambly (“A bit?” you ask…), but I just wanted to post a few thoughts and to highlight the new commentary. In addition, while I don’t normally talk about other Church of God organizations, let me add just one more thing. I don’t know what other organizations may have congregations out there, but I do know that one, in particular, certainly does–namely PCG, the headquarters of which is, I believe, in part of the affected area. I don’t know if any of the few of you who happen to quietly read this blog outside of my own congregations are in PCG, but if you are and if there is anyway in which any of our members can help, please let us know. I know many of the LCG folks in that area, and I believe any of them would be more than willing to do what is necessary to help you and ensure you are safe and out of harm’s way without pressing you with questions or disrespecting your desire to maintain your distance otherwise. I’m not trying to sound magnanimous, because I believe that if any of us were in a similar spot you, too, would reach out. I’ve known just a few people who went to your organization, but all of them were friends and good people. In particular, those brethren in my congregations who have come to us from your organization are some of the most wonderful people I know. I have come to care for them deeply, and they reflect very well on you. Regardless, we’re praying for you and for everyone impacted by these tragic events.

May God bring His kingdom quickly that such events are never experienced again. Again, my apologies for rambling a bit, and I return you to your regularly scheduled surfing.

7 thoughts on “Our prayers are with those in Oklahoma

  1. Thank you, Mr. Smith, for mentioning PCG and your offer to help any affected PCG members in that area. The first thing I did when I learned of the news was to check a map to see how close the damage was to PCG’s headquarters. I saw that it was south of there, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that there are probably PCG members scattered all over that area and some of them could have been seriously affected. Shame on me for not thinking of that.

    “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

  2. obeirne

    I can’t imagine what this is like since we in Ireland haven’t suffered anything like this since January 5th 1839 and we don’t have storms anywhere near this one in terms of ferocity and destructive force. It is known in folklore as the Night of the Big Wind – Oiche An Gaoith Mor in Irish/Gaelic – phoenetically rendered, ” Ee hah an gee more “. About 300 people were killed, hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands of men, women and children were made homeless. This was in the decade just prior to the devestating famines of the 1840’s. However, unlike the famine which still has a deep resonance in the minds and hearts of the Irish, the distant event of the storm of 1939 does not stir the kind of feeling a famine in another country still does because of the millions who suffered death and loss and how the famine continued to affect Ireland for years afterwards. But our Irish hearts go out to those who have suffered in Oklahoma and those of us in the Living Church of God in Ireland – but also, I’m sure, in UCG and other COG groups – will have all the victims in our thoughts and prayers. May our God of perfect love and mercy comfort the bereaved, heal the injured and restore all who are in need of restoration in whatever way they are in need.

  3. (…) It may be fairly easy to understand, intellectually, how such things can happen, it is still hard to grasp emotionally. And part of me wonders if that should always be a struggle. Perhaps it should take us to our edges, which is where struggles take place, as long as it doesn’t take us beyond them.

    I believe it is actually harder for some people to understand this problem sentimentally (“sentiment” being best defined, psychologically, as an attitude of mind associated with how we value individuals’ worth, among other things). I’m not quite sure how that works, really. Is it that those who most naturally use their personal value judgments in a particular way, alone or as coupled with some form of “big picture” perception, can wrap their minds around this problem more easily? You’re not the only one with your basic pattern of perceiving and deciding I know who’s expressed the kind of difficulty you’ve expressed above.

    But I believe you’ve given the right answer all the same. C.S. Lewis gave essentially the same answer – pointing out that we live in a dangerous world because sooner or later this absolutely forces us to face the essential questions of life, particularly moral questions rooted in value judgments. And I believe this is the biblical answer also.

    Trials like this are meant to break man’s ego-driven self-reliance, and also his values-driven self-righteousness. This is what Job’s trials were meant to ensure.

    Understanding this problem emotionally may affect us all equally because emotions come from the “mortal soul” and are responses to stimuli, not attitudes of mind (spirit plus brain). This kind of stimulus overwhelms everybody emotionally one way or another, I suspect, or can if one hasn’t developed the resources to deal with such a plight. Nobody wants to die or get injured, and most don’t want to see others suffer either fate, on the emotional level.

    I for one wouldn’t want to be anywhere near such a catastrophe, let alone in it, and I pray for those that are. And I pray for those who’ve publicly mocked God in all this – as I’ve heard there have been thanks to brethren who have been watching the media.

  4. Indeed I’d add that a trial like this tests one’s mental stability from top to bottom – in what every one of the Nine Beatitudes represent, let alone what follows after them in Jesus’ teachings. And that surely is intentional on God’s part, else He wouldn’t allow it to happen.

  5. Steve

    The loss of so many innocent children is the hardest thing for me to take. Humankind pays a terrible price for having walked away from God, a long time ago. Thank God that these poor children will live again. There’s going to be tears of joy.

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