After Hawaii Fires, Relief Director Ponders Whether Bad Things Only Happen to Bad People

Hawaiian sunset
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Adventist Community Services Director W. Derrick Lea maintains belief in the blessings of God Amidst Trial.

Recently, I was sent a post that made the rounds on social media channels about the devastating fires that had affected the town of Lahaina in Maui, Hawaii. The focus of the post was to demonstrate that one church, a Seventh-day Adventist church, made it through the fires untouched, and that this fact was the result of being a praying community.

I paused as I considered the many crisis events I’d seen over the past ten years. I remembered one call I received early one morning. I had been told that one of our churches had been blown away and completely destroyed.  While this was news that concerned me, I was encouraged by the fact that no one was killed. Yes a church had been destroyed, but no life had been lost and I remember thinking, “what a blessing from God!”

I then thought of one of the areas that had experienced historic fires where many people were being forced out of their homes. Unfortunately, in this particular crisis event, a number of people were killed while fleeing, some of whom were members of local churches. And while this was a depressing set of circumstances, the Adventist Community Services (ACS) teams came together and set up a distribution center and also tended to the emotional and spiritual care needs of those impacted by the devastating fires. While the community struggled during the recovery, we were able to show God’s love to those that were in crisis and again I remember thinking, what a blessing from God!

So, I guess what I’ve been pondering are the questions that many ask, “Do bad things only happen to “bad” people?” While I’m positive this isn’t the message that the social media post about the standing SDA church in Lahaina intended to convey, it did make me stop and think about what I believe as well as the messages that my words convey.

My pondering also led me straight to the source of all truth. I wanted to see what the Bible said about God’s response to the crises in our lives. I was reminded of the following:

1. God is eternal, infinite, and omniscient and we cannot and will not ever fully understand all of His ways or purposes. This is exemplified by the story of Job. God called Job a righteous man (Job 1:1), yet he suffered in ways beyond belief. Job had no idea what was happening behind the scenes. He had no ideas as to why God had allowed Satan to wreak absolute havoc in Job’s life. Despite Job’s suffering, he remained hopeful, exclaiming, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

2.  Not one of us is perfect. We live in a fallen world, and all are tainted by sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8; Luke 18:19). At some point in time, we will each experience the effects of living in this sin-filled and evil world in one form or another, the “good” and the “bad.” The difference will be in our response to suffering – our personal suffering as well as the suffering of others.  Christians recognize that this world is not our destination. And though it be marred with suffering, sin, devastation, and loss, we should maintain an eternal perspective: “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

3. God can use “bad” or catastrophic things that have happened to us or to others, ultimately for His good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

4. Crisis events are opportunities for deeper ministry and service. “Praise be to…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5).

I am always encouraged by the work and the response of the Adventist Community Services workers and volunteers all across the North American Division. In each of the above incidents described, these workers went to work and ensured that the communities in need were supported.

The fact is, God blesses and walks with us through the good and the bad. I rely on Exodus 15:2 which state, “the Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise Him.”

While this may seem challenging as we strive to live in this fallen world, it gives us a foundation that steadies us during crisis. We must remember always that God is good, just, loving, and merciful (Psalm 135:3) and we trust Him, even when we don’t understand.

 

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