God, faith and storms – Looking beyond the darkness

Crazy Faith Ministries

A woman called me who, after Katrina, moved herself and her family to Houston. She had lived in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans and her house was ruined. It was a house that she had only recently bought, and she didn’t have the resources to repair it. That was before she was told it would have to be demolished. Twelve years ago, she had been devastated, but once moving to Houston had begun to build her hope and faith again.

Then came Hurricane Harvey, and her home, this one rented, had been flooded out.

She had worked so hard to get on her feet, she said. She had worked hard not to let her children see her despair and depression. Together, they had come through the storm that comes after the storm – the storm of survival. She had had to start over from scratch, living in her car for a while until she could get a job, finding a school for her young children and having to look for a child care provider for her youngest so she could look for a job. She had lost her car in New Orleans, and so her job hunting in Houston had been difficult.

But she had done it – and now, she was going to have to start all over again.

“Where is God?” she asked me. “Why is God letting this happen to me again?”

I had no words. We are all taught that God is with us all of the time, but I instinctively knew that this was not the time to offer religious platitudes. She was hurting and her faith was in crisis mode. Everything that had been stabilized after Katrina had been thrown completely off course by Harvey.

If there is anything I have learned over the years, it is that many of us are good for helping people in crises, but we are not so good at helping people with the storm called survival and rebuilding. It is the same phenomenon that is seen when we minister to a person who is sick but do not minister to the caregiver, who often becomes sick while taking care of a sick loved one. The stress is too great, the problems too massive and extensive. Because people look OK when they walk around even in times of personal crisis, we allow ourselves to believe they are OK, but so often, they are not.

This woman was in crisis mode. She shared with me and sobbed as she talked, but she said there wasn’t anyone else she could talk to. Everyone was suffering, she said. Nobody, or few people, had a home anymore, and many of them who had their homes still did not have the money they needed to fix them. Her situation, she said, was no different than anyone else’s.

What about her church, I asked?

They’re good, but there are so many people who need help, she said.” We can hardly get around, those of us without cars. And a lot of people who had jobs have lost them or will lose them because they don’t have transportation and without a job, they don’t have money to take public transportation.”

She mumbled something about being grateful about being in a shelter, but said it was hard because there were so many people in there, still. “The cameras are gone,” she said, “but it’s still bad here.”

There was no answer I could give her when she asked where God was and why God had allowed this to happen to her again. I was not going to try, and I wasn’t going to give her some trite religious sentence that ultimately would do nothing but make me feel like I had been mildly effective.

But when she hung up, I prayed. I prayed that we who say we love God will continue to show up as God to these people who are suffering so much. This woman said she might have to move again. She has nothing left – except her life and her children.

And God.

The people who are walking in darkness need to see the light which is God in and from people who are able to live their faith during this “after storm,” if you will. Now is the time we who say we love God have to show those who are on the line that God is real – and be willing to do it for as long as it takes.

Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is a preacher, writer and organizer She is available for speaking. She can be contacted through revsuekim@sbcglobal.net.

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