Tornado, Pandemic, and a God who is Greater
"For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17,18)
It was 1982. I was in my early 20’s, with a toddler and a child on the way. My wife had about $2000 worth of orthodontics yet unpaid (a small fortune in those days) and I found out ON THE NEWS my job had been terminated. Braniff International, my employer of four years, had declared bankruptcy and we were told not to report for work. Other details would be shared in the media (then, the newspapers, radio, and television). High fuel prices had wounded the beleaguered airline, and the air traffic controller’s strike had finally done them in. What was a young family to do?
A couple of days later I was flying FIRST CLASS on Delta, dining on a chocolate sundae, on my way to a job interview in Los Angeles and marveling at how quickly God had answered our prayers. In the months that followed, our family was uprooted but intact, we welcomed our daughter, Rachel, into the world, and the braces were paid off. I finished my degree in California and LIFE CONTINUED.
Now, nearly forty years later, I still marvel at how God is able to turn difficult situations around, again and again. The tornado that devastated our church almost four months ago did not destroy our congregation. We’ve enjoyed the use of a local elementary school, growing closer together.
We just received news that we would no longer be able to meet at J.A. Vitovsky Elementary because of school closures necessitated by the spread of the coronavirus. Last week, we met at our coffee bar and enjoyed a sweet time of worship and fellowship. This week, we are encouraging people to stay home and partake in a “virtual” church service that will be live-streamed from Lighthouse Coffee. We are doing our best to comply with the President’s guideline of not convening in groups of more than ten people.
Our church offices have been beautifully restored and the coffee bar patio is almost complete. The main building, where we previously met for worship, has undergone an extensive asbestos abatement, and the floors/walls are ready for renovation. Our plan is to complete the project in three phases: first, the sanctuary will be repaired, then our children’s classrooms restored, then reconstruction of the part of the building completely razed. Building permits have been received and work will begin within days.
That’s all very exciting, but our main concern right now is the health and safety of our church members—physically, emotionally and spiritually. The last message I shared in our sanctuary, the day of the tornado, was taken from 2 Corinthians 4:17 and 18, about “focusing on the things we can’t see.” Eternal things. Qualities such as love, joy, and peace. Kindness. And a God who is not shaken by upheavals on this planet. He is a shelter during these times of crisis. If we had all of the answers all of the time, we wouldn’t need faith.
It is interesting to note that a virus cannot be seen with the naked eye, and yet it is our focus these days. If we can obsess about a virus that we can’t see, but whose effects are greatly felt, how much more should we focus on a God of light and perfection, whose effects are felt in even greater ways?
The Bible is replete with stories of faith in times of fear, of deliverance from crisis situations, and of hope in the darkness. Jeremiah said, during a particularly trying time, many years ago:
"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end" (Jeremiah 3:21,22, ESV) Jeremiah had it right. He felt the pain of his situation, but he chose to focus on the goodness of a God who is above it all, a God who transcended a glorious existence to become a man who felt pain, hunger, betrayal, and sorrow. Jesus was a “man of sorrows acquainted with grief” per the prophet Isaiah. He endured all these things so those who look to Him can also enjoy victory in the midst of trials and heartache. We choose to “call to mind” these things and therefore, we have hope. We’ll keep you posted as things progress, but in the meantime, we’ll see you on the internet via our Facebook Live stream on Sundays at 10 AM. Keep focusing on the right things! - Pastor Dan