When we lose everything

What do you do when you lose everything? Pictures of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma on islands in the Caribbean, such as Barbuda and the British Virgin Islands, are heart-breaking. People have lost their homes and all their possessions. They were helpless in the face of the power of the hurricane. When reporters talked to them you could see the shock and bewilderment on their faces as they looked at the ruins of what was once their home. Re-establishing normal life again is a daunting task. Some, however, said that, although they have lost everything, they are thankful to God that they and their loved ones are alive.

In America people have been remembering the events of the 9th September 2001, when the attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York killed 2,997 people and injured more than 6000 others. The total collapse of the towers stunned all who witnessed it and those around the world who saw the pictures. Hearing the stories of those who lost loved ones in the attacks brings home their sense of absolute helplessness as, in the minutes after the attacks, they spoke on the telephone to relatives who were trapped in the towers with no possibility of escape. All they could do was tell each other “I love you” and pray.

The Bible tells the story of a man called Job. He was a blameless and upright man who feared God. He had seven sons and three daughters, and owned thousands of sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys. He also had many servants. On the same day, all his animals were stolen or killed by lightning and all his sons and daughters died as the house in which they were enjoying a meal together was struck by a tornado and collapsed. He lost everything. When the news of these devastating events came to Job, he tore his robe and shaved his head and fell to the ground in worship saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Devastating loss is not a sign of God’s displeasure or an indication that those who experience it are worse people than others. We can pray for those who are seeking to rebuild their lives that God will give them the strength they need and also that he will make us truly thankful for all the blessings he has graciously given us.

The ministry of angels

Last summer Stephen Parker and his two sons, 17-year-old Mason and 8-year-old J.T., were working on a Toyota Prius at their home in Sugar City, Idaho. Mason had cut his hand and had gone into the house when the car collapsed on Stephen. He called out to J.T. to jack the car up quickly. Stephen was totally trapped and soon passed out. He thought he was going to die because it seemed impossible for J.T., who weighs just 50lbs, to jack the car up. It had taken both Stephen and Mason to jack the car up the first time.

But J.T. first adjusted the jack and then began jumping up and down on the jack’s handle. Slowly the car began to rise, freeing his father and enabling him to breathe. Then J.T. ran to get Mason, who called 911. Stephen, who was in a critical condition, was flown to hospital by helicopter. He had 13 broken ribs, but no internal damage. The American Red Cross of Greater Idaho has awarded J.T. one of its “Real Heroes” awards for 2017. When he returned home from hospital, Stephen asked J.T. to try to jack up the car again, but he didn’t have the strength to do it. When he asked J.T. how he had done it before, he replied, “Angels!” J.T.’s mother, Jodi, says, “This whole thing is a miracle.”

The Bible clearly teaches that angels exist; they are personal, supernatural heavenly beings. When Jesus was born, a heavenly angelic choir appeared to the shepherds. In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus prepared to die on the cross, “an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him.” After the resurrection of Jesus, an angel rolled the stone way to reveal the empty tomb. When the apostle Peter was imprisoned for preaching the good news about Jesus, an angel of the Lord led him out of the prison.

Angels are one of the ways in which God cares for his people and gives strength to face the big problems and challenges of life. The Bible says, “Angels are only servants – spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.” Jesus taught that we all need to learn from the childlike faith of young children and their straightforward trust in God. When we are facing things that are just too hard for us, like J.T., we can ask God to help us. J.T. knows that his father, whom he loves dearly, is alive today because God sent his angels to take care of him.

Overcoming Evil with Good

Even though the events of 9/11 happened 10 years ago the images remain fresh in our minds. Seeing the planes crash into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre and then, just 2 hours later, the 2 towers collapsing is still a vivid memory. Nearly 3000 people died in the attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93.

These events remind us of the uncertainty and brevity of life. Those who died had no reason to think that 9/11 would be the last day of their lives. After hearing the news of the attacks relatives and friends tried desperately to call those they knew might be in the Twin Towers, but there was no reply. Many families were plunged into grief and sorrow and some still struggle to come to terms with what happened that day.

Amazingly, however, some survived. One lady, who was on the 63rd floor, spoke of how she was rescued from the rubble and brought to safety. As she lay under the rubble she prayed to God. As a child she had attended church with her parents, but had decided that following Jesus Christ was not for her. She had come to the big city and was enjoying the night life and hoped she might become an exotic dancer. As she lay under the rubble she asked God to give her a second chance and promised that, if he did, she would dedicate the rest of her life to him. God heard her prayer and within a few minutes a man called her name and held her hand and she was rescued. To this day she has never seen that man again. There were many unsung heroes that day.

It is not easy to know how to respond to events like 9/11. In the past 10 years Western nations have been waging war on terror around the world. It is still unclear how effective this will be. The teaching of Jesus is challenging and truly radical. He taught his disciples to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecuted them. Despite all the good things he had done he was unjustly condemned to die. On the Cross he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” With God’s help, in a world of continuing conflict, we need not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good.