by Dale Reeves
King David cried out,
“Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck.
Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold.
I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me.
I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched.
My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.”
—Psalm 69:1-3 (NLT)
These words could have been written this past week by the residents living in some of our Appalachian towns. It has been heartbreaking to watch the news as we see the reports of the aftermath of the floods that hit many towns in eastern Kentucky, as well as parts of southern West Virginia and western Virginia. The floods were unleashed last week when 8–10½ inches of rain fell in just 48 hours last week. This disaster has also led to flash flooding, landslides, and mudslides in some of our nation’s poorest regions. The water poured down hillsides and into valleys and hollows, engulfing entire towns.
The death toll in Kentucky has risen to 37 lives, and search-and-rescue teams are still looking for others who were lost. In some families, everyone in their household perished. The storms displaced hundreds of residents and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. In some places, nighttime curfews have been declared in response to reports of looting. I have been praying for the people who are trying to recover from the loss and devastation, including several of my wife’s family members who live in Letcher County, in the small towns of Jenkins and Whitesburg.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear commented, “We continue to pray for the families that have suffered an unfathomable loss, some having lost almost everyone in their household. That count is going to continue to go up; this is a real tough one.”
When natural catastrophes like this hit, we often ask questions like these:
“Why, God? Why did you let this happen?”
“Where are you, God, in the midst of this loss of life and property?”
It is natural for us to ask these questions. The Psalms in the Bible are filled with questions such as:
“Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1, NIV).
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:1, 2, NIV).
“Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he ever show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” (Psalm 77:7-9, NIV).
Those are some pretty raw and hard-hitting questions. The psalmists didn’t hold back, knowing God could handle their questions. The Bible tells us that God “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 6:45), and we know that there are many followers of Jesus who have been affected by the recent flooding. So, what are we to make of this, from God’s perspective? Why did this happen and where is God in the midst of all of this? This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but here are a few answers that have been offered to why such tragedies occur, and what God thinks about them.
- Because of the curse that took place in the Garden of Eden that was a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, we live in an imperfect world in which our world “groans” and suffers natural disasters (Romans 8:22). We suffer the effects of the curse (Genesis 3:17-19) in many ways—we age, we get sick, we live in an imperfect world.
- This is a reminder that the things of this world are temporary. As much as we are grateful for the homes, cars, and material blessings that God provides for us, we know that ultimately they will not last. As followers of Christ, we should do all we can to help people dealing with these kinds of losses get back on their feet. If you want to contribute to providing tangible help to some families in eastern Kentucky, here’s a list of supplies our church is collecting to send to them. Eternal matters are most important, and should always be our highest priority.
- God’s ways and timing are not our ways and timing. It is OK to ask “Why?” questions, but we must acknowledge that we may never find out why in this life. Our finite minds simply cannot comprehend an infinite God, whose sovereignty and purposes are far beyond our understanding (Romans 11:33-36). As hard as it may be for those in the midst of tragedy to see right now, God is a God of love. He can use anything to draw others close to him.
God’s Unfailing Love
God often works through the hands and feet of his church to demonstrate his love and compassion to those in desperate need of it. I am praying that some folks who have not had a relationship with our Lord will come to him in faith as a result of the church being the church to them in this tragic time.
After all the loss and suffering that Job went through, as recorded in his book in the Bible, he exclaimed, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21, NIV).
That is an extremely difficult attitude to have in the midst of loss of life and devastation of things you have worked for your whole life, but what a noble goal to have that kind of attitude. May we come alongside those we know and love in support and prayer during this time, as we continue to ask God to pour out his mercy, grace, and love in tangible ways.
May we pray this prayer along with King David:
“Don’t let the floods overwhelm me, or the deep waters swallow me, or the pit of death devour me.
Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love is wonderful.
Take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful.
Don’t hide from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in deep trouble!”
—Psalm 69:15-17 (NLT)