We were startled awake in the middle of the night by the persistent buzz of an iPhone going off near our heads. My parents were on the other line saying that their house was being evacuated due to a fire and wondered if our house was a safe place for them.
My husband jolted out of bed and tore the curtains open to reveal a bright red sky.
Far worse than the bright red sky was the sight of several houses up on the hillside above our house engulfed in flames. My hand flew over my mouth in shock as I began to think of the families whose whole lives were wrapped up in those homes, now engulfed in flames.
For weeks, our community was in a blur of fire, smoke and fear.
The Thomas Fire that ripped through my hometown and destroyed over a thousand homes and buildings hijacked the carefree joy of the Christmas season in our community. Countless people have been displaced from their homes and left with nothing but a few items they remembered to grab in the midst of a chaotic evacuation.
I found myself asking God, “Why do you allow bad things to happen when you can do something about it? If you are the God who is in control of the wind and the waves, why couldn’t you stop the wind that fueled my hometown’s firestorm?”
I was left with nothing but the sound of the persistent wind outside my window taunting my doubt. But as I sat in the discomfort of this doubt, and I thought about all of the people around the world who have wondered the same thing in the midst of disaster, sickness or trauma, the thing God brought to my attention to was His own grief.
I remembered that our God is the God who wept alongside two sisters over their brother’s death moments before raising him from the dead.
I remembered the words of Psalm 34:18…
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
And I also remembered that our God is Emmanuel, God with us. Matthew 1:23
I thought about what was going on in the world when Jesus came into the scene that first Christmas. The Jewish people were waiting for a Messiah King, one who would deliver them from their oppression.
But God didn’t send a king to fix their problems, he sent a baby to one day rule their hearts and to save their souls.
When Jesus began his ministry, he didn’t rule the people as a king. Jesus shared meals with them, he taught them, he cried with them, he healed their hearts and loved them.
I’m not sure we will ever know the answer this side of heaven as to why God allows bad things to happen when he can do something about it. But of this one thing, I am sure; God is with us.
He is with us in the kindness of a stranger, the embrace of a family, the strength of His Church and His provision of our needs.
He is near to us when our lives are crumbling in a blaze of fire.
He gives us a peace that surpasses all understanding as we sift through the ashes of countless memories that were swept away.
He gives us the strength to stand beside those who have lost everything and to help carry their burdens as if they were our own.
Our God doesn’t stand at a distance, unsympathetic to our pain.
Our God is the God who goes straight through the fire with us and sees us through to the other side. Our God is Emmanuel.
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INVEST IN YOUR GOD-GIVEN GIFTS AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Your Gifts: Spiritual Gifts Discovery
God created you with purpose and passion—learn how you can take the gifts He has given you and use them to advance His Kingdom in ways you never imagined.
Here are more free articles, excerpted from the book Your Gifts shown above, one for each of the nine Team Ministry Spiritual Gifts…
- Do You Have the Spiritual Gift of Shepherding?
- Do You Have the Spiritual Gift of Administration?