It seems every time there is a disaster it is always noted that the silver-lining is the way in which communities come together to comfort each other and rebuild. We say, "Isn't it a shame that it takes a disaster to bring out the good in all of us." Living near the wreckage of Sandy, we are getting inundated with people all over the nation who want to do something to help. Indeed this is fantastic!
The reality, however, is that soon the initial desire to help meet the need will give way to fatigue and aid will slowly decline. Before long we (as a society) will be back to yelling at each other over differences of political opinion, social and cultural differences, etc. And yet there will be part of us that will remember how wonderful was the unity of purpose. We will wish for those days of community again. Until the next disaster when like clockwork, we will say, "Isn't it a shame that it takes a disaster to bring out the good in all of us." So we must struggle with this: Is disaster a gift from God?
I do not mean to suggest that God desires death, illness, injury, etc. But I wonder if when material things are destroyed and people's lives hang in the balance, we are forced, at least momentarily, to cease our "love of money, and material things." Having nothing else, having seen such great loss--we draw toward one another. We want to give even if we have nothing. And we feel good about it because finally in the midst of disaster we behave according to our operating manual. We assume the loving and giving image of our creator. Perhaps on occasion God ordains our losing everything so that we can find the one thing that matters.
Before the storm came, my six year old daughter reflected, "Even if the storm means we can't do Halloween, I'd rather have the storm--because God turns the world upside down. He takes what seems the worst and makes it the best!" (a child of two theologians!!)
I have no doubt that God is working this disaster for good for those who love God and are called according to God's purposes. It is the promise of scripture, it is what always happens in times like this, it is my personal, immediate experience of the world I live in, and it is reasonable--we often emerge on the other side of hardship stronger than before. In fact, the outpouring of love for one another is not the silver lining - Rather that is the big picture. It is the storm and its destruction that is small in comparison. And so part of me is thankful for the storm. Not thankful that people are hurting and without places to stay. But thankful that it is bringing people together--thankful that we can begin to talk about the things in life that really matter.