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Finding God in the Midst of Trials, Tragedies

An Old Testament passage recounts a story about the prophet Elijah who, fleeing from those who want to kill him, searches for God in order that God might protect him.

A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountain and crushing rocks – but the Lord was not in the wind.

After the wind, there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

After the earthquake, there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire.

After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound. [It was here, in the whisper of a breeze that Elijah discovered the Lord he sought.] -- Kings 19:11-12

This story, while perhaps unfamiliar, is one with which we have all identified at one time or another. It describes one person’s search for God in the midst of difficulty. Have we not encountered similar situations? Are we not struggling mightily to survive such a crisis now?

The COVID-19 pandemic with its seemingly limitless casualties shakes us to the core. Likewise, other serious illness, family problems, natural disasters or misfortune of any kind may prompt us to wonder where God is in the midst of it and why God isn’t intervening. Elijah found that the Lord was not present in the destructive wind, earthquake or fire. Similarly, we must remind ourselves that God plays no part in devastating viruses; neither does God send violence or misfortune. Such occurrences are part of the nature of the created world and the effects of a free will that allows each person to make choices for his or her life.

While not responsible for the difficulties we find in life, God is ever-present to us in the midst of our trials. Elijah found the Lord in the gentle whisper of a breeze that directed him to a place of safety. Disaster victims no doubt discover God in the outstretched hands of individuals – often strangers – offering help and assistance and financial support.

The presence of God is available to the seriously ill through family and friends who visit, send cards and offer prayerful support, and through the medical personnel who treat them with tenderness and compassion. Likewise, to those families coping with problems, God is present in the very love and courage required to heal and transform relationships.

While our God is all-powerful and almighty, our God is also a God of quiet and gentle presence. God is not to blame for viruses or other ills that befall us. God does not cause these events and situations, but God can definitely be counted upon to provide comfort and assistance in the midst of the very worst that life sometimes sends our way. Let us pray for those afflicted in any way, that in the midst of difficulty, they may experience the gentle, comforting presence of God.

Susan Bremer, OSU