For millions around the world, for as long as our tired globe spins (and can it endure much longer before Jesus returns?) the year of 2017 will be remembered as a year of tears. Loss. Devastation. Unspeakable horror.
Many of us stared at our devices recently, reading and watching the live coverage. Raging hurricanes of unprecedented fury. Earthquakes. Forest fires. Floods and tornadoes. Blessed to live in calmer areas (through no merit of our own), we could barely turn aside from the scenes before us. Each day seemed to bring some new horror, and not all weather related. Wars. Famine. Terrorist attacks. Our hearts broke for tender little ones, bereft of home and family. For helpless seniors, abandoned and dying.
God, will it ever end? Most of us have thought or prayed that. “Really, Lord. Enough already. Calm these storms for those poor people.”
“Hon,” I said to the Preacher, as we watched CNN one evening. “What can we do to help?” My voice drifted off. “These people’s world has stopped spinning. Money seems so cold. Necessary. But cold.”
Many of the people facing such crises in the wealthy West had made no material preparations for the trouble that roared their way like a battalion of army tanks on steroids. Some things one can’t prepare for. We live life to the fullest for as many days as life is full, and when it’s not, well, we pray for strength and hope and deal with it.
As they reported, newscasters repeated often, “When Mother Nature is at its worst, human nature is at its best.” People who in other circumstances wouldn’t even pick up a piece of garbage they’d just dropped, waded through floods to rescue a neighbour or a neighbour’s dog. Strangers gave each other their places in line at shelters, “because they looked like they needed it more,” and people risked their lives (some even died) trying to answer the call of another person in crisis.
Hell, I’ve read, is a place with plenty of great soup for everyone, and everyone gets a spoon to eat it with – a very long spoon, too long to reach the mouth, so everyone goes hungry. Heaven, they added, has the same soup and the same spoons – but there, everyone feeds each other and they all have enough.
If anything encouraging comes out of the year of tears, perhaps it’s just that. That somewhere inside even the hardest, coldest spirit, the spark of God’s kindly love waits for gusts of mutual adversity to fan it into a blaze. Oh, some may blow it out before it forms a caring word or thought or action. That’s true. But not most. Thank God, not most.
In our own times of personal and family crisis, Jesus has often come to us through the people who have come to us. My prayer, and that of many I know is that through this year of tears, and in the years to come, people find him in their crises too.