So far this summer, over 100,000 acres of forest have burned in Colorado, along with over 600 homes. At least five lives have been lost to wildfires. And July has barely started.
Many are asking the question, why? Why would God allow this to happen? It doesn't seem possible, and it doesn't seem fair.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, one of God's faithful servants was facing a different kind of disaster. St. Paul, who was on board a ship bound for Italy, where he was to go on trial before Caesar, suddenly found himself caught in the storm of the century. The seasoned sailors couldn't control the ship, as it was driven by hurricane-force winds across the Mediterranean Sea. Almost everyone on board gave up all hope of surviving this storm.
Why? Why did God allow this to happen? Paul had been a tireless missionary who had already suffered much for the sake of the gospel. Why should he now have to endure a disaster at sea, and possibly drown? It doesn't seem fair.
God never revealed to Paul why he allowed this disaster to strike. And he hasn't told us why we're experiencing the drought and wildfires our state is going through right now. It's easy to become frustrated and angry with God when disasters like this strike, thinking and acting as if he has let us down. But the truth is, God never promised that our lives would be pain-free and problem-free. In fact, he warned us they would often be just the opposite. When Adam and Eve first introduced sin into the world, God told them that from now on, there would be problems and pain and disease and disasters and death. Shortly before he was crucified, Jesus soberly warned his disciples, "In this world you have trouble."
God never promised us that disasters would never touch our lives. Nor did he promise to explain why when they do. As tempting as it is for us to become angry with God, let's not hold God to promises that he never made.
But while God doesn't always give us the reason why disasters strike, he always gives us a reason to have hope when they do. When Paul faced disaster at sea, God revealed to him that while he and the others on the ship would suffer, none would perish. We may not receive a direct revelation from God like that, but God's Word gives us many promises, promises which give us hope. God doesn't promise a pain-free life, but he promises to be with us always. He doesn't assure us that we will never experience disaster, but he assures us that he will never allow any temptation to come our way that he won't also give us the strength to bear up to. He doesn't tell us that we'll never experience loss, but he does tell us we will never perish.
Economic disaster may take our job. Disease may take our health. Wildfire may take our home. But nothing can take God's love, his forgiveness in Christ, or his heaven away from us. How can we be sure of this? Because God promised these things. And he never, ever goes back on his promises.
- Brent Merten is pastor of Mountain Valley Lutheran Church, 802 Brush Creek Terrace, Eagle.