Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1
We are approaching the one-year anniversary of one of the most destructive weather weeks in our country’s history. One year ago, tornadoes ripped through the heartland of America and one particularly devastating one gutted the town of Moore, Oklahoma, leaving us with a great deal more questions than answers about God and His ways. After that kind of occurrence, nothing seems safe…our cities, our homes, our children. Devastating.
When I work with congregations in the midst of conflict, there is this same difficulty…finding God and trusting His promises in the midst of devastation. Hopeless does not really begin to describe the feeling. Trusting God when the path is smooth is one thing, but believing He is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do when our world has crumbled around us…well, that’s a different thing, isn’t it?
When your entire neighborhood is literally ripped from its foundation, leaving little evidence of ever having been there, it is hard to hear about God’s love. When lifelong friendships are torn apart as a result of a church conflict, we struggle with notions of God’s promises to those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes. When our children are sent safely off to school and then are horribly and suddenly taken from us, the love of God can feel like a completely foreign concept.
I think it is important to note that God’s Word does not promise to keep us from these things. Rather, God promises to be WITH US in the midst of them. In all of these instances, what happens next is the fulfillment of that promise. The people of Moore, Oklahoma felt the love of God through disaster relief workers and churches and emergency personnel and people who cared for them. In the days following their tragedy, they came face to face with God’s love which endures forever. Similarly, in the aftermath of every church conflict, there is the birth of a new day in the life of the church…a day when God manifests Himself in fresh new ways. Neither tornadoes nor church conflict catch God by surprise. He sees them coming, knows the outcomes of them, and makes His presence felt in the healing and rehabilitation which follows.
It is that healing and rehabilitation for which we give thanks. It is through the outpouring of relief efforts and through the reconciliation of friendships where we experience the love of God which endures forever. The devastation is still there, our lives will never be the same. The church is split, and it will never be the same. But God is nonetheless good and is faithful to be there with us, just as He promised.
In all things and in all seasons, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good…and His love endures forever.