“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
(Psalm 46:1, NRSV)
The continuing tragedy of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey is heartbreaking. Many of us know people in the areas of Texas that have been impacted by this disaster. I feel helpless at this point to provide care for my stepdaughter, Isabel, and her family who live in Houston. So far, so good. All we can do is wait. And pray!
It has been heartening after weeks of seeing the worst of humanity and its prejudices on public display, to see the best of humanity as people have reached out to one another to lend a helping hand in the immediate aftermath of Harvey. We’ve seen it so many times before and, unfortunately, we’ll probably have to experience it many more times in the future.
Through all tragedies—whether they are natural disasters or more personal tragedies of our own making—we can choose either to be defined by the tragic circumstances or to rise above them. To allow ourselves to be defined by these tragedies is to assume the role of victim. To rise above them is to trust that God is somehow redeeming the devastation and thus, empowering us with an even greater capacity for strength and healing. Let me be clear; I do not believe that God “did this.” What I do believe is that God is at work in every circumstance and working toward good for us and all his creation (see Romans 8:28).
For those of us beyond the physical impact of Hurricane Harvey, God is inviting us to be transformed by this tragedy as much as those who have been in the heart of the storm. As one member of the body suffers, so does the whole body (see 1 Corinthians 12:26). In response to seeing the suffering of others in the path of the hurricane, several people have described feeling an empathetic response where they feel the pain of those in Texas and beyond. It is this reaction that embodies the invitation to transformation. If we merely feel their pain and fail to respond, we will not grow nearly as much as if we do something to alleviate their suffering.
We are fortunate to be a part of both a church and a denomination that always finds a way to respond. We're prepared to immediately act once we have received word from those in any of the affected areas as to how best we can help. To go without an invitation is not only disrespectful but counterproductive. As those on the ground make their assessments and formulate the best way for us to respond, the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Canterbury will be poised to act. We’ve already identified some ways for you to help now, so be sure to check the latest information on our Facebook page. Our response is what God’s help looks like in situations like this. Thanks for all you do!
Rev. Dale Cohen
Senior Pastor of Canterbury United Methodist Church