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On Faith: Disasters are not a sign from God

March 26, 2011|By Mark Wiley

He had been hiding for more than a month.

He managed to escape into the desert when he first heard the news. The government death squads were after him.

He was safe living in a desert cave, but now food and water were scarce. He could see himself dying soon, even if the assassins didn't find him. So, in desperation, he offered a "Hail Mary" prayer to God.

The next night was strange. In the desert, there was a lighting fire storm with the loudest thunder he had ever heard. The lightning storm was followed by a wind storm that seemed like a tornado.

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Then came an earthquake. He had never felt an earthquake before, and this was terrifying. Finally, after all the storms had passed, and everything was quiet, he heard the voice of God. God had come to rescue him.

God was not in the fire. God was not present in the tornado. God was not in the earthquake. God was present only in the stillness, the quiet, the silence. This biblical story, which has become a centerpiece for mystics and God seekers alike, reminds us today that God is not in the earthquake.

Earthquakes are not messages from God. Earthquakes are not warnings from God. Tsunamis are not punishments from God.

There is no evidence that earthquakes are anything more or less than the normal shifting of the Earth's tectonic plates. God does not send earthquakes as messages to be decoded or clues that can only be discerned by the faithful. Earthquakes are not indicators of God's opinion of our moral condition.

Even though God has a better special effects department than Steven Spielberg, God does not often use special effects.

God prefers the personal approach. If God wants someone's attention, the biblical record is that God simply drops by out of the blue. Admittedly, this has its own kind of dramatic effect. If you are home for lunch making a grilled cheese, and God drops by to share a meal with you, this can be rather startling!

Think about Easter for a minute. We celebrate Easter with bright flowers, trumpet fanfares, loud and celebrative music, and the best chocolates we can afford. It's glorious! Jesus was raised from the dead.

This is big news! It deserves the best we can offer! It's time for the wildest party ever! But on the first Easter there was no fireworks, no choirs and no Easter brunches. There was no special effects at all.

It was in the quiet just before dawn that God raised Jesus from the dead. I think God delights in the personal and the subtle.

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