Current Events/My Culture/Teen Culture Hurricane Harvey: Finding the Divine in the Disaster by Courtney Kiolbassa Hurricane Harvey has captured the nation’s attention, but as a Texas native, with friends and family in Houston and other affected areas, the hurricane’s destruction hits heavy. Thankfully, I am only seeing images; my loved ones are seeing the real thing, up close and personal. The homes and streets and stores they inhabit are underwater, unrecognizable. Most people prepared for intense storms, but not devastating floods, so many are piecing together solutions from limited resources. The marginalized and poor are especially vulnerable. And, sadly, more rain will fall soon. As the country moves forward with new stories and different news, Texas residents will eventually have to begin the long process of rebuilding. It’s impossible not to wonder: where is God in all of this? “God is Love.” 1 John 4:8 In the wake of tragedy, it’s a question that begs our attention, and for good reason. We ask how a loving God could let something so destructive happen, and how a loving God responds to all of it. These questions are valid, and they don’t have simple answers. This video has helped me better understand the will of God. I believe that God never intends suffering; in fact, He weeps over it (John 11:35). God is not apathetic to suffering, and He is not the cause of it. Yet, for reasons somewhat difficult to understand, He allows the world to continue on its natural course, which means that suffering necessarily happens. It’s a mystery that perplexes me, but it doesn’t drive me to despair. Why? Because God has given us a glimpse into the way He brings good from the worst of situations. This does not negate the suffering, but it also does not allow us to be abandoned to hopelessness. Just yesterday, my friend and I were talking about all of this. Her family is spread throughout neighborhoods that have begun to flood, and I saw a bit of fear in her eyes. The moment I asked where she saw God in all of this, the fear turned to hope. She spoke of her mother: taking in one family, then another. Offering food and shelter to those who needed it. She spoke of her dad, who has back problems, and the way his neighbors knocked on his door to help him move furniture upstairs. There are stories of civilians with boats, rowing down the streets that have turned into rivers in order to rescue complete strangers. Emergency officials put their life on the line to do their job. I see photos of people transporting children and the elderly alike, crossing the water to get others to safety. A priest got in his kayak and went to check on parishioners. God is love, and I have begun to see love poured out in my beloved state. Love has appeared, in little ways and in big ways, through the efforts of people who could very easily seek only their own benefit. “God is love” is not just a Bible verse anymore. It is a reality to which we must cling: God shows Himself in the love of His people, and it is this love that will move us forward, no matter what suffering comes our way. God is present in every monetary donation and every rescue, every act of love that points us towards hope. There is tragedy, yes, but there is also human love that participates in Divine Love. There is also a God who cares because God is love. “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:21 For many people, Hurricane Harvey can seem far-off. It’s a hashtag. A photo. Another voice in the background of a busy world. My challenge to you is to ask how you are being called to love. Let this disaster come close; the suffering is real, and we can’t let it become just another news story. Here are my suggestions: Pray For: Take time to intercede for the people of Texas, for the success of relief efforts, and especially for the most vulnerable. Pray About: Let your prayer stir you to action. Pray about what you would want others to do for you in this situation, and examine what you have to offer. Research: Not all donations are created equal. Monetary donations, given to reputable organizations, are most immediately effective. Some organizations you can offer direct, immediate support to are Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul of Galveston-Houston, and Adore Ministries. This is a time of great need and I’m trying not to let my humanitarianism end when the flood waters recede; but we as Christians must orient our lives around advocating for and assisting the most vulnerable. Love is a lifestyle, not a single action; begin that lifestyle today by doing what you can. Friends, God is here. God is moving through those who love, and He wants you to be part of it. Never lose sight of hope. If you would like to hear more about making sense out of suffering and why God permits natural disasters check out the Life Night, Guarantee of Storms.