Calamity turns Americans to God

It’s too early to begin to consider what good may come out of recent tragedies in the news, but the Bible promises that God works in all things for good.

By Marv Knox

Bombs burst at America’s most venerated footrace, ripping runners and spectators limb from limb. An industrial explosion blocks from some of Texas’ most beloved bakeries shakes an iconic small town to its core. Poison-laced letters in Washington remind politicians, pundits and the populace maniacal lunacy may be as near as your mailbox.

Pardon us if we’ve had the jitters the last couple of weeks.

Sadly, Americans have grown accustomed to random violence. We’re resilient, and we shake it off. We get on with our lives.

But calamity piled upon calamity in the middle of April. We couldn’t turn away. We couldn’t divert our attention. Wherever we looked, we looked upon pain and suffering -- or their first cousin, fear.

The Boston Marathon bombing, the West fertilizer-plant explosion and the Washington ricin letters riveted our attention on death and destruction. Preachers rightfully turned to Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear….”

Most days, Americans don’t realize we need the truth -- not to mention the God -- of Psalm 46. We usually feel self-sufficient. Oh, in our Sunday hearts, we know we need God. But in our Monday-Saturday lives, we act as if we can take care of ourselves, thank you.

Seeing wounded people lying in the street, we remember our utter vulnerability. Watching a cell-phone video of a massive blast in the middle of a little town where we stop to eat fresh kolaches, we realize bad things can happen anywhere. Knowing an office worker could die because she opened the wrong envelope, we recognize our own lives balance on the razor-thin edge of calamity.

Events in Boston, West and Washington remind us we live in a dangerous world. Evil exposes itself as quickly as a pressure-cooker blast. Chaos descends quick as a spark. Death appears as insidiously as white powder.

And so we cry -- for the victims, of course, and maybe for ourselves, too. We pray for survivors whose lives changed in an instant.

We also cheer for heroes: Runners and cops and ordinary folks who sprinted toward bomb blasts to see how they could help. First-responders who gave their lives protecting others. Volunteers who lined up to donate blood, clean up carnage, bind up wounds, sift through wreckage, contribute cash, hug the grieving and pray.

Maybe like you, I’ve been wondering what good can come out of such horror. I believe, maybe like you, what the Apostle Paul promised in Romans 8: God groans and suffers alongside us. God also works to deliver good from even the worst circumstances.

It’s too early to begin to consider what good may come to family and friends who lost loved ones in West and in Boston. Or what good will greet people who lost limbs on Boylston Street and others who lost health and/or homes in Central Texas.

Without a doubt, most of us would choose life prior to the Boston bombs and the West explosions. We want “before” rather than whatever God provides “after.” We’d prefer victims go on living, mangled bodies remain whole, demolished houses remain intact.

But our experience of time is linear. We can’t go back. And so we lean on -- and trust -- the God of redemption. Dark as the present days may be, God will mine good from pain, suffering, doubt and fear.

At the least, we’ve been reminded: We remember life on Earth is short and fragile. We realize we cannot take family and friends and homes and health for granted. We acknowledge moments spent with people we love are more valuable and precious than possessions.

We are not self-sufficient. God who grants free will remains closer than our next breath, even when breathing is agony.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.