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.
May 25, 2011 at 9:39 am
Once again I have the same feelings as you. I have family that was hit in Joplin, Mo. My cousin worked at a grocery store that was totally destroyed. She and her co-workers found refuge in the freezer locker. She has some scrapes and bruises but they are all a live. Her car was totaled as well as everyone else who was in the parking lot. I thank God that she was one of the fortunate ones.
May 25, 2011 at 10:05 am
I am glad they survived Vivian. There were so many who did not. We’ll continue to pray for them.
May 25, 2011 at 11:29 am
I have been praying for you and your family, Vivian.
May 25, 2011 at 11:29 am
This made me cry. Thank you
May 25, 2011 at 11:36 am
I love your sweet heart, Monica Bee.
May 25, 2011 at 5:03 pm
I totally understand what you’re feeling. I drive through neighborhoods daily that were destroyed by the tornados that came through Madison County 4 weeks ago today. My house is fine, yet a sister in the Lord lost her husband, one child has broken bones, her and her other child badly bruised and house destroyed. Yet there is laughter and crying at the same time as prayer and also rejoicing that her husband is with the Lord. Everything was just “stuff” and they will go on. I am in awe of her strength and her faith in our Lord who will never leave us or forsake us, yet everything around us is in ruins. It has sure made me slow down and appreciate what I have.
May 27, 2011 at 8:06 am
Andrena, I too puzzle over just how to have simultaneos rejoicing and mourning and you have articulated the dilemma well. A friend of mine at church was battling cancer when we left on our bike trip last week. He died yesterday. And he is no less important to God than those you mentioned suffering natural disasters. Meanwhile, I’m vacationing? It’s hard to process.
May 28, 2011 at 9:48 am
I’m sorry about your friend, Wayne. It’s hard.
But I think it’s almost an insult to the Lord to not receive his blessings in our life with joy because we feel “guilty” about another’s misfortune.
I thank the Lord that his ways are righteous and true, and someday I kno we’ll say “Oh my gosh! That makes perfect sense!” (But surely not right now.)
May 28, 2011 at 8:26 am
What a touching post, Andee! This is a subject I’ve given a lot of thought to, also. And, it’s why I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit. We can’t carry it all, only He can. But, He graciously apportions to us to pray for some, rejoice with some, weep with some. I think that’s why some people’s circumstances touch our hearts deeper than others. And when that happens, He asks that we be faithful to partner with Him to pray and give as we can. And, for some reason, this Joplin disaster has affected me deeply.
May 28, 2011 at 9:51 am
You are right, Judi. That was well said. The burdens on our hearts do come straight from the Holy Spirit, variously, and beyond our understanding of why.
November 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm
What a touching entry Andrena. I love how you put into words much of what I feel here in Mexico, many times. I have been so abundantly blessed and so many have nothing……at least by my standards. Still trying to come to terms with it after all these years:) The word tells us that “the poor will be rich in faith and heirs to the Kingdom” So maybe I’m the one who is needy and lacking?
October 30, 2012 at 8:40 am
The next time we play Monopoly, I will be reminded of this post and all of your interesting comparisons in this entry. So well written.
March 4, 2017 at 10:32 am
Reblogged this on Paladini Potpie and commented:
Today, March 4th, is my wonderful husband’s birthday; and today my mom passed away. She was 91 and “ready to go” but I will miss her. Today while celebrate my dear husband and thank God for the life we have, I mourn for the loss of my mom. So we “MARCH FORTH” in the knowledge of God’s great love and his perfect timing