The Next Time Disaster Strikes

It’s a crazy world. We’re reminded of that on a national level about every three or four months when disaster strikes. A man shoots up a school. A tornado wipes out an entire town. But the disaster doesn’t stop there. It continues in the ensuing days and weeks as we try to explain what happened, or even worse, exploit what happened.

The next time disaster strikes, here are a few things we would do well to remember before going public with our reaction.

1. It’s called a tragedy for a reason.

I was with a friend who had just lost everything in a hurricane. Everything. When we stopped at someone’s house for a meal, my friend wasn’t offered extra clothes or a gift card to Target. Instead, she got a sermon. A sermon about how the government has essentially weaponized the weather. I was fascinated. My friend was heartbroken.

Assuming for a moment that this theory and others like it are true, it doesn’t mean that you have to talk about them while people are still hurting. If you want to share conspiracy theories with your buddies over a meal, fine. No problem. Just wait until the water recedes or the bullets stop flying. In the meantime, find the hurting people and do what you can to help them.

2. Put the tired old sayings to rest.

I’m looking at you, media. Here’s how it usually plays out.

The talking head puts on his best concerned look while simultaneously hiding his excitement over the fact that his ratings are going to skyrocket. And then this little jewel comes out.

“What a terrible tragedy. But the people of ________________ are strong. This is a tough town and they will fight back.”

First, has anyone ever seen a good tragedy?

Second, what does it mean that people from ______________ are strong and that they will fight back? If it means that they will resist militarized police from coming into their homes without a warrant to find some bad guy then, by all means, the people of ________________ are tough. But that’s usually not the case. So stop saying it.

3.  Stop taking God’s name in vain.

I’m not just talking about the man who uses God’s name like a cuss word after seeing for himself just how big the tornado is.

Well meaning Christians can take God’s name in vain when they try to apologize on his behalf.

“God would never do anything like this.”


By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. “Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God. Job 37:10-14 (ESV)

But if there’s one thing that we can learn from Job’s friends it’s that you can say the right thing in the wrong way or at the wrong time or in the wrong spirit. It’s another way of taking God’s name in vain.

“God was clearly punishing the people of __________________ for the way that they voted on ___________________ six months ago.”

That could very well be the case but unless God has told you his specific reason, cool it with the theological analysis.

Look, seminary costs a lot of money and you didn’t go in to debt to tell people, “I don’t know.” But sometimes that’s the best way to go.

We do know that God is always good.

We know for sure that God is always in control over all things.

And sometimes, it’s best to just leave it at that.

That way, instead of prolonging the disaster by trying to show off our big brains, maybe we can help to start the healing process by more faithfully representing our big God.