June 28, 2012
Minutes after ignition of the Waldo Canyon Fire, the call rang out for prayer. And the call was answered by millions of Christians across our nation and our globe.
Trust me on this one. I heard from dozens of friends who said they were praying for my family, my home, my city. Above all, these friends prayed for rain. One friend is a confirmed atheist. Out of concern for me, this atheist prayed for rain.
But here’s the question rattling around in my mind. I suspect this question invaded your mind, too.
Where was the rain we all so desperately needed?
The Christian God, according to biblical narrative, is in charge of all. This God kept Daniel safe as he spent a night in a lion’s den surrounded by hungry beasts. This God protected Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, even as they stood in a fiery furnace in Babylon. This God parted the Red Sea, allowing Moses and the Israelites to escape slaughter at the hands of the Egyptians. This God rolled away the stone and restored life to Jesus.
On Tuesday night, I was watching in terror at one of the city’s high points behind Chapel Hills Mall. Hundreds stood beside me as we watched the flames rolling through neighborhoods, consuming houses. There was an overwhelming sense of helplessness.
For me, there was also this draining realization:
God, despite the requests of millions, had not delivered rain to the Pikes Peak region.
This is an ancient question. For centuries, women and men have pondered why an all-powerful God declines to use this power to relieve torment.
Job, an Old Testament character whose list of woes reached ridiculous length, asked God why he suffered so much. God answered his questions, but only kind of. God told Job his ways were beyond the understanding of men.
Rev. Patty Walker works as sabbatical minister at First Congregational Church and chaplain at the Pikes Peak Hospice. She works with Springs residents facing life’s most daunting challenges, praying for deliverance from disease, from marital distress, from the clutches of death.
She prayed for rain. She remains, despite the dry terrain, encouraged by God’s answers.
“You can’t tell God how to respond,” Walker said. “Even though it doesn’t rain, it doesn’t mean God isn’t showing up. God has shown up in a million other ways.”
Walker and her family were evacuated Monday from their home in the Peregrine neighborhood. She was, as she lived as an evacuee/refugee, constantly encouraged by the love and concern shown by friends and strangers. She believes this love and concern comes from God.
Her faith has not been shaken by the fires. It’s been strengthened.
“We have a very involved God,” she said. “I believe God is crying with people who lost their houses.”
Not every biblical character was granted God’s miraculous aid. John the Baptist, pioneering evangelist and cousin of Jesus, languished in prison before being executed. David, beloved of God, departed the earth with his family in complete tatters.
“There is holy mystery around suffering,” Walker said.
In the end, our view of God’s response comes down to what we expect. If you truly expected a torrent of rain in response to prayers, a torrent preventing this week’s agony and confusion, there’s no doubt you’re disappointed.
But there’s a second view. This view applauds whatever response God makes to the prayers of his people.
Brady Boyd, senior pastor at New Life Church, has prayed without ceasing this week. God, Boyd stated with confidence in his Louisiana drawl, answered those prayers. Boyd prayed for rain, for the firefighters, for the evacuees. No one has died, Boyd said, and the firefighters performed astounding feats.
“We’ve received two out of three, and that’s been pretty amazing,” he said. “That’s a miracle.”
Two out of three.
Is that enough?