That was quite a night last night. It seems like we get a few nights like that every year in this part of Arkansas. Sadly, people lost their lives in this storm. Even though I don’t know their names or their surviving families, I shudder to think of what they are going through now. I hope they are people of faith.
Even as a person of faith, I know that it can be hard not to question God when horrific things happen to us or those we love. We believe that God is just, righteous, and compassionate, but things that seem unfair are too common in our world. But it’s always been that way.
In the earliest days of the church, as recorded in the New Testament book of Acts, those pioneering Christians must have dealt with some incredibly difficult situations. I remember the story told about James the Apostle who was arrested by Herod. I’m sure his friends and family were praying for him. He was an important man in the fledgling church. But James died, and it wasn’t an accident. He was executed.
And then there was Peter. Soon after James was killed, Herod had Peter thrown into prison with plans to execute him and stifle the growth of this new faith founded on the belief in a resurrected Jesus Christ. Peter’s friends and family prayed hour after hour. Then the unthinkable happened; Peter was miraculously freed from his jail cell by an angel of God. He went on to preach the gospel to countless people while remaining a central leader in the church for three decades. This must have been a fantastic experience for everyone—or at least almost everyone.
You ever wonder what James’ family thought?
Why Peter and not James? Was he better than James? Did God love him more? Why did one family have their prayers answered while another was heartbroken? These are the kinds of questions people around here sometimes ask after we deal with terrible storms. In the case of Peter and James, the Bible doesn’t give a direct answer. The same is true for us today.
After the storms come, there will always be unanswered questions. If we make it through in one piece, we’re simply called to thank God. If the worst happens to those we love, then we’re still left to find faith in spite of having unanswered questions. That’s why faith is just another word for trust, and that’s why so many of us sometimes struggle to remain faithful. But if our lives follow the same trajectory as those in the early church, we can learn from their example that God was always with them—both in life and in death. He is there when the winds are blowing, and he is still there when the rain is past and the sun comes out again.
Maybe that’s the firmest conclusion I can draw from all this. God always outlasts the storms, and no matter what happens today, those who are faithful will be with him when the Son returns again.