Friday, October 3, 2014

What It Means for God to Be Good All the Time

Sometimes it's easier to be grateful than at other times.

Yesterday afternoon, a fierce storm of wind and rain tore through north Texas, and specifically, a narrow swath of central Arlington, between Fort Worth and Dallas.  Entire trees - mature, beautiful, full, tall - were blown down; one of them onto the front of a neighbor's house, crashing into its roof, and tearing away the soffits, exposing the attic.  Fortunately, its occupants - an elderly widow with Alzheimer's and her housekeeper - weren't home at the time.

And it's unknown when - or if - they will be again.

Another neighbor's two cars are still buried under huge tree limbs from a next-door tree.  The sounds of people sawing wood, raking debris, and generally cleaning up have been constant all this Friday morning. 

Fortunately for my parents and me, we suffered insignificant damage to tree branches, clumps of which were stripped from our tall trees during the storm, and much of which I was able to clean up yesterday evening, after the main event had passed.  I've got plenty of work to finish up tomorrow, but later today, I'm heading over to the State Fair of Texas, where I volunteer at an evangelism booth, and have done so for years now.  Despite numerous school cancellations today because of physical damage or a lack of power - a lot of traffic signals across the metropolitan area are still dark - the State Fair's website says they're open and running normally.

I happened to be outside in the 95-degree heat earlier yesterday afternoon, just walking around the backyard, stretching my legs after being on the computer for most of the day.  Some rain and wind was predicted, but nothing big, and I saw a dark gray cloud heading our way, so I started walking towards the back door, across the patio upon which Dad had fallen earlier this summer.  Suddenly, I could see a dusty, brownish cloud spin down from the roof, pick up some plastic lawn furniture, and heave it against a planter, breaking the heavy planter's plastic base.  I ran over, grabbed the lawn furniture, and stacked it against the house amongst some shrubbery, so it wouldn't continue to be tossed about the back yard.

And then I headed inside.  Just as I closed the door, the wind really picked up.  80-foot-tall trees bounced and twisted about like they were made of rubber.  Debris began to fly horizontally, along with the rain - nothing was falling directly to the ground.

Large, leafy limbs began accumulating in the street.  A couple of limbs, about six to ten feet long, were actually blown up the street from who knows where.  My Dad and I, watching from a front window, saw them traveling along like they were automobiles on the pavement.

At one point, the rain and debris flying horizontally together were so thick, we couldn't see the giant tree parts crashing onto our neighbor's vehicles across the street.

After it was mostly over - the wind was gone, and a drenching rain seemed almost anticlimactic - I went outside to check on a couple of neighbors, including the one with Alzheimer's.  A couple of other neighbors did the same thing.  From the 95 degrees when I'd been outside in the calm, mostly-sunny afternoon before everything hit, our temperature had now dropped to about 65.  Indeed, as the lawn furniture was spinning across the yard, I could feel the sharply cooler air in the wind that was spitting dirt and dust on my face.

Part of our old side fence made of brick and wood partially collapsed into a neighbor's yard, but it was a fence we were needing to fix or replace anyway.  Other than that, my family's property escaped with remarkably little damage.  We never lost electricity, although it did flicker, and our phones and Internet connections never went out.  We were very fortunate, and are extremely grateful.

But I hesitate to gush about how God was so merciful to us, even though, obviously, He was.  Sure, He protected us, but even today, before noontime the day after that storm, over 200,000 of our neighbors are still without power.  We have neighbors with genuinely significant damage to their homes and cars.  Was God mean to them, letting such damage strike them?

We're all blessed, aren't we?  God's grace stretches not just to His people, but His "common grace" extends to even those who intentionally deny Him.  He gives the rain and the sun, oxygen and literal life, the ability to live in sturdy shelter, the ability to get our cars fixed when trees fall on them, and He gives us the strength if we have to completely start over if our home gets destroyed. 

God would have been no less good to my family and me if the wind had whisked this house off of its foundation and tossed it in splinters two blocks away.

God would have been no less concerned for our health and welfare if the worst had happened - our demise - than He is today, with my parents and me as healthy as we were yesterday at this time, before the storm hit.

Yes, God is good, and He's good all the time.  But I'm particularly grateful that His goodness during the storm yesterday was manifested in His protecting us from harm.  If He'd allowed harm to strike us, would I be similarly grateful?

I'd like to think so, but here again; I'm grateful we're not facing the reality of that question today!

God is good all the time.  We say that with ease, but it means a lot more in some circumstances than others, doesn't it?

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