“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
As I write this, news continues to come out of Gatlinburg about the terrible damage caused by the widespread fire up there. When disasters and tragedies such as these occur, we are faced with both opportunities and questions. Specifically, we have many opportunities to be a blessing to those who are in need by helping them and thus letting the light of Christ shine (Galatians 6:10; Matthew 5:16). The example of the parable of the good Samaritan shows us what it truly means to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus told Christians that they help Him when they help even “one of the least of these” who are in need (Matthew 25:31-46). I encourage not only Christians but the entire community here in Calhoun and Gordon County to be a blessing and provide assistance to the ones in need both in this present crisis in Tennessee and with other needs as well.
What we can do depends on what we are able to do with the skills and resources we have. Providing medical aid, assistance in clearing away debris and providing resources like medicine, food, clothing and shelter are all things we can do. We can also help indirectly by financially supporting either those with the skills needed who desire to go directly to the place where the need exists or charitable organizations who will also provide direct help. I recommend Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) as a good guide to help you find an established, trustworthy charity with experience in any particular problem or disaster which takes place. However you choose to do so, please take this opportunity to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and help your fellow man in need (Matthew 7:12).
We also have questions when hardships like these occur. Why did this happen? Some wonder if God causes it; it is common to call natural disasters “acts of God.” God has used natural disasters in the past such as the global flood (Genesis 6-7) or famine and the like (Amos 4:6ff) to punish those who have sinned against Him. That said, it would be a mistake to attribute all disasters to the hand of God. Natural disasters are part of a natural process in a planet’s ecology, and sometimes God allows such events to run their course. Sometimes disasters are man-made. The Bible also says that sometimes things happen to people due to chance (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Sometimes the innocent suffer. Paul suffered greatly due to his loyalty to Jesus rather than his sin (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Job had done nothing wrong, and yet God allowed Satan to cause him much grief in order to test his faith (Job 1-2). Therefore let us not make the same mistake made by Job’s friends and presume that those who suffer tragedy are guilty of sin (Job 42:7). Sometimes that is the case, but we have no way of knowing. We are commanded to speak the truth of God’s Word (Ephesians 4:15; John 17:17), which has not given us any specific revelation as to why God has allowed the disasters of today to happen. Thus there is no way to know for sure if God caused a particular disaster to happen and, if so, why He did so.
Another question often asked is why God even allows such tragedies as this to occur. The Bible teaches that suffering, while terrible, can also bring out the best in us and cause us to be more patient, generous and even more spiritually-minded and mature (Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4). Also remember that Scripture teaches that we must not make the things of this world our top priority (Matthew 6:19-20; Hebrews 13:14). Hardship can keep this world from becoming too attractive and motivate us to seek something better in eternity.
Disasters such as what has happened in Tennessee are terrible, but they can also be occasions for much good in this world. You can play a direct role in that. You have an opportunity to do good. Take it!