I learned a long time ago that when bad things happen, the question we need to ask isn’t “why?” Instead, we need to ask “what?” We need to ask, “What does God want us to learn, especially about Him?” A related question is “As a result of what has happened what does God want us to learn about ourselves and what ultimately matters?”
I’ve also discovered asking “What does God want me (us) to do in response to what has happened that will bring God the greatest glory?” is also a question worth asking.
Jesus gives us the answer to the last question in Matthew chapter 5 where the Bible records Jesus saying in verse 16: “… let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
When bad things happen Jesus wants us to respond in such a way that others see how we respond and give praise, and honor and glory to our Heavenly Father.
Recently, I watched it happen when a team of men and women who serve Jesus as a part of the Western Pennsylvania Conference Disaster Response Team spent an entire day mucking out a basement of one of several homes in Charleroi that had been flooded. While I was there too, I was there only to encourage and to pray. Others did the hard work.
Even with a funeral the same day, Pastor Lori Walters was also there. So great was their collective witness, the Borough Manager sent out an email the following day expressing his appreciation. The email text is below. As you read it, please note the next to last sentence.
Hello Gentleman and Ladies;
On behalf of our Mayor, Borough Council and the people of Charleroi I would like to extend our sincere thank you to those of you who traveled to work in Charleroi on Thursday. Carrying mud in buckets up a ladder and to dumpsters is not the way many of us would like to spend any day let alone a beautiful sunny day. The United Methodist Ministries Disaster relief team has been acknowledged on our social media outlets even though we are aware that is not why you do what you do.
Even a thank you to those of you who were prepared to come when we thought there was more work. Thanks for your willingness to help.
Your commitment to Christ and your core beliefs has been duly noted by one very thankful community.
Continued success and good health to you all.
Bad things do and will happen. When they do we have the opportunity to respond personally and collectively in ways that will help others see and experience our Father’s love infusing hope where there is no hope and faith in the One who came into the world to shine light in the midst of the darkness.
Here’s something else I learned. I’ve learned that when bad things happen, it’s not enough to pray for God to send help or for us to have compassion on those who have been affected in some way. Whenever possible, we need to go and if we can’t go, do what we can to help others go in our place. In other words, we need to live out the words I saw on the back of a t-shirt worn by one of the Disaster Response volunteers. The words were these:
“The Church has left the building.”
Not to leave the building keeps the light of God’s love “under a basket” which Jesus said in verse 15 we are not to do. We are instead, also in verse 15, to “put it on a lamp stand”. When we do that, it shines brightly for all to see and our Father receives the glory He deserves!