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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Near to the Brokenhearted

Last week, I ran some errands Monday morning, fully intending to follow my normal routine and post a blog update here by the late afternoon.  I had no idea that a tornado was about to tear through the middle of my town, leaving behind multiple dead or wounded and cruelly shredding homes, businesses, and landmarks.

I was blessed not to lose anything in the storm. I was blessed that all of my friends made it out safely (even though their house did not). I say we were blessed, that is, protected and rescued by God, even though much was lost.

I don't want to downplay grief. That would be cruel, and totally unlike God's response to the aftermath of a disaster. The Bible says, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit," (Psalm 34:18 NIV). God is not far away, looking down at people without compassion. He has promised comfort to those who mourn (Matthew 5: 4), and He will be the one who will bring that true healing, as He promised long ago, "Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well.  I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow," (Jeremiah 31: 13 NIV).

"Bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, 
the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise 
instead of a spirit of despair," (Isaiah 61: 3 NIV).

Now that we are reminded about God's response to disaster, we should remember what God asks of Christians in such terrible situations. Christians are told to, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn," (Romans 12:15 NIV).  Our attitude is so important!  Jealousy over those who fared better and callousness toward those who lost everything is out of place among believers, especially in the middle of disaster.

How do we rejoice with others when we are personally mourning? How do we mourn with others when we are rejoicing ourselves? This attitude cannot come from within ourselves. It is self-contradictory, and at its very root, it puts others first. It has to come from a tenderheartedness and selflessness born of God, not from ourselves. It has to come from a transformed heart, inclined to look beyond our own situation and respond to others as God does.  If you're struggling with a wrong attitude right now, just remember, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength," (Philippians 4: 13 NIV). God will help you through this, too.

Finally, for those who are far away and wondering what to do after this disaster (and I have had numerous people contacting me and offering financial help and donations after this tornado), I would say that your charity is helpful, but the most powerful and far-reaching thing you can do is pray.  Pray for people who do not know the Lord to turn to Him and be comforted. Pray for those who do know the Lord to be strengthened as they begin to regroup and rebuild. Pray for their protection, physically, financially, and spiritually, especially over the next few weeks. Pray for healing, for individuals and for the cities that have been affected by tornadoes, flooding, and other disasters over the last couple of weeks.  Above all else, model prayer for others, so they will remember to turn to God in their own troubled times.