The woman is covering her eyes with her hand, and her head is bowed. She stands, wrapped in a blanket, slumped in the midst of destruction. My toes curl and I shift my weight as I stare at the image on my computer screen. My toe curling and weight shifting is an uneasy reaction – not a purposeful action. It is a mixture of pity and horror and almost something like guilt. For the last twelve hours I have been walking around my house curling my toes and squishing my feet into our new carpet. I’ve been lying on the floor basking in the soft new luxury while this woman has probably been lying on the hard concrete floor of a disaster shelter. I’ve been joking that my house is upside down because we‘ve been moving furniture from room to room, and stacking it so we could carpet the whole house. This woman’s house is literally upside down.
I pray for the woman in the picture. I have been praying for all the people in Joplin and neighboring areas who have been hit by tornados this week. I don’t think I know any of them personally, but I still have a vague feeling of guilt. I have just been given so much and they have just lost so much. How in the world do I reconcile this?
Matthew 5:45 says God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain for the just and the unjust. So it has nothing to do with deserving.
Romans 12:15 says to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn. That’s kind of a tall order. My frail human brain – as magnificent as the human brain is! – can’t seem to understand how to grasp both feelings at the same time. My mourning for all those people who have lost their homes to tornados and floods must surely put a damper on my rejoicing with the people I know who just had a sweet new baby, or got the job of their dreams or bought a lovely new home – or new carpet. How do I reconcile it? It seems almost hypocritical to rejoice one moment and mourn the next.
As I sit here wrestling with this huge concept I remember my airplane window lesson. It comes to me every time I fly in an airplane and am fortunate enough to have a window seat. The ground falls away and before long the houses are the size of Monopoly houses. Soon the streets and freeways are ribbons with little coloured beads running along them. And I know that every one of those little beads has at least one life in it. Each Monopoly house represents at least two or three lives. Thousands of lives spread out as far as I can see from this heavenly vantage point. I will never know most of those people, but God knows every one of them intimately. He is working out details in each of those lives as surely as he is working out the details in my life. He takes me through times of personal grief and mourning and personal victory and advantage. He is a God of most intricate detail.
He is the only One who is able to feel real rejoicing and real mourning all together at all the right times for all of us. (Whew!) I know this when I am above it all and catch a glimpse of his perspective. Down here all I can do is try to recall that heavenly perspective, trust in God’s capable provision, and remember that to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.