In the book of Job in the Bible, Job questions why God, in all his power, allows disasters and trouble to happen. God answers not with an answer to the question, but with his own questions: “Then the Lord answered Job out of a violent storm, Where were you when I created the earth? Who decided on its size? Who came up with the blueprints and measurements? How was its foundation poured and who set its cornerstone, while the morning stars sang in chorus and angels shouted praise? That was me. I wrapped the ocean in soft clouds and tucked it in safely at night. Have you ever ordered the morning, ‘Get up!’ or told the dawn, ‘Get to work?’”
So how many people does it take to stop the ocean from eating up the sand? None. People can’t deal with it. That means that we who escape some of the worst of the damage of storms are not to think we are better than the people who haven’t escaped. As a matter of fact, according to the heart of compassion each of us has been given, the “duty and joy” of those who have escaped is to reach out and do what they can for those who haven’t.
We can always pray, however, for God’s presence, God’s strength, God’s wisdom in the midst of trouble. Sometimes, some theologians say, God saves us from the storm; sometimes God brings us safely through the storm, and sometimes God saves us by the storm. It’s an idea that is good for preparation, but when a person is suffering from a storm, either an ocean storm or a wind storm or the storm caused by personal attack and meanness, or a war, it doesn’t help with the pain or suffering or questions. The only thing that helps in those times is the presence of someone who cares, who wants only to comfort, who does what he or she can. The thing that helps is not necessarily answers or words, but being nearby. We have been given for each other, to reflect the compassion of God to each other. We can’t stop the storms. But we can be there when they have passed by. Does someone need a phone call? Does someone need errands run? Does someone need help shoveling their walk? Does someone need a ride somewhere? Does someone need a heart and mind willing to mourn with them, or hear their story?
I invite you to attend a place of worship –whether you’re in a position to help, or a position to need help. The old hymn says: “We share each others’ pain, each others’ burdens bear, and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.” The strength of God’s spirit gives each of us the strength for what needs to be done to help another. Come and worship and feel the support of other worshipers, and maybe offer support to someone who could use it: God’s blessing in the middle of a Vermont winter.
Rev Dr. Marcia Dorey is pastor of the Halifax Union Society.