I can’t get this old woman out of my head.
She stands in front of her flattened house, describing to a local news reporter how she survived the impact of Moore, Oklahoma’s recent devastating tornado. Minutes into the interview, one of the crew spots her little terrier underneath a crumpled bed frame. “Thank you, God,” she gasps as she tries to pull him from the wreckage. Her name is Barbara Garcia, and her video interview went “viral” after her pup was found in the rubble. It’s a miracle: her life spared along with the life of her friend, who she was sure was gone forever. He reminds me of little Toto as he lifts his stiff legs to walk, a dazed look on his face.
A sweet story like this helps us to recover pieces of hope from something so devastating. It seems that there have been a lot of tragedies lately, leaving many of us grasping for something that transcends, something that breathes life into all this despair. We are forced to search for meaning when we’re met with senseless sorrow and pain. When all is lost, we’re looking for something that remains: a glimmer of hope and a flash of joy–something that whispers to us that there will be an end to these troubles and everything will be made right.
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5
When the world feels as if it is crumbling, the awareness of God’s sovereignty can bring joy and peace. He has a plan for all things, and just when the darkness feels like it will never pass, the sun rises again.
J.R.R. Tolkien invented a term for storytelling and our Story:
“I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe‘: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears …And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back…And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.”
Jesus’ disciples and followers were in the most dejected and hopeless time of their lives when Christ bled and was murdered on that cross. They mourned the painful loss of the man they had thought would be the One to finally save them. But what they didn’t see then was that in three days, He would stand in victory…ALIVE! What better example of eucatastrophe; sometimes we can be dragged to the depths of this life only to awaken to the miracle of a new day–of healing and joy like we’ve never known.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. – 2 Corinthians 4:17
(This verse is funny to me because Paul says “light” and “momentary” and we can scoff at his choice of words…but if anyone’s troubles were the opposite of light and momentary it would be what the Apostle Paul went through for the sake of the Gospel.)
…Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. – Psalm 30:5b
The issue of suffering in this life is difficult to reason and it’s not something to take lightly.
In a C.S. Lewis biography, Terry Glaspey puts it this way:
“Suffering for its own sake is never good and we should try to do all we can to alleviate it in the lives of others. But pain is important because it wakens us from the illusion that all is well in the universe.”
And like all things, God uses pain and suffering for ultimate Good:
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis
Because the truth is that we are in need of Someone greater–beyond our fallible landscape, higher than this fragile earth, stronger and more powerful and mighty to save. We cry out to Him when a two-mile wide funnel drops down into the lives of Oklahomans, and we are desperate for His healing touch when floods, tsunamis, fires, and hurricanes wreak havoc on our towns. We beg Him for mercy when the lives of little ones are taken from us in the blink of an eye.
And this old woman in Moore, Oklahoma stands in front of some shredded wood that used to be her house and describes those minutes when the twister brought her home down on top of her. Just hours after it happened, she is able to speak so calmly about the frightening event that destroyed her whole neighborhood, and as far as she knew at that time, took the life of her little dog. She brings tears to my eyes because she reminds me so much of my grandmother from Oklahoma who has passed away. Her cute accent, the old-fashioned words she uses…But there’s something else that is so remarkable about her attitude that I keep thinking about: humility.
“This is life in the big city,” she says, when asked how she thinks of what happened to her home and her belongings. “It was the game plan over the years to go in that little bathroom,” she explains, as nonchalantly as if she is simply passing on a recipe to a friend or telling a little anecdote.
And I keep wondering how I would react if all of my belongings were torn to pieces around me, if I would immediately thank God for the life I still had and part with easily the temporal things that don’t matter at all. Above all things, I want to have a humble heart: open to receive, willing to give, and ready to lose everything if need be. To have a healthy perspective–this life could end tomorrow or change drastically in a moment’s time, but I must be like a child in her Father’s hands: completely trusting, absolutely surrendered, and unquestionably little.
When my tendency might be to dwell and mope and grumble and feel sorry for myself, I want to shrug my shoulders and say, “This is life in the big city!”
All I can do is say Thank You.