“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Monday morning I awoke to my friend calling me that that raging fires were hitting my hometown. I later get a text from my dad saying they were outside an evacuation center in their car and said they were not sure if they were safe. I heard that his neighborhood was in flames and I got a frantic call from a friend just listing off the places that are burned or where there were mandatory evacuations. The rest of the day was a blur. My newsfeed was blown up with fear and so many people saying their homes were gone. Some left with few belongings and some friends nearly escaped. That night an old neighbor called and described how she awoke in the middle of the night hearing a big explosion and a ball of flames in the distant. The next morning, I woke up to apocalyptic pictures of decimated neighborhoods, historic buildings and treasured childhood places. Later that day fires were threatening the area my dad evacuated to. I went to bed not knowing if he was or would be able to evacuate somewhere. I fell asleep with videos of raging fires swirling my brain.
For those of you who may be questioning if God is still good and cares about us, or even still exists, I am writing this for you. Despite this madness, I have seen God work in awesome ways this week. If you can open your eyes, I hope you can see that too. That you can put your hope in him, and trust that he can provide so much healing.
Before I start, I do want to say that my trust has been wavering this week. I have never doubted God’s existence, but being so far away it’s been hard for me at times to see that he is working. My faith isn’t perfect. Before this happened, I was actually quite arrogant. I felt that I was really thriving and that even in tragic circumstances, I would have little fear because of my faith. But my stomach has been churning and I’ve had a stress headache since Monday night. I’ve barely been able to pray at times. It’s been difficult believing God’s truth when I’ve been given or read scripture. The night I didn’t know if my Dad was evacuating I was a mess and was full of fear. During this time, I have also seen how incredibly sinful I am. Every time I see someone post about fun times or how happy they are they are social media I get angry. Don’t they know there is a major natural disaster? Why aren’t they mourning? Why aren’t they liking or commenting on my posts or texting me to see that I’m ok? At times, I’m more concerned with how many notifications I’m getting than how my community is faring from everything. It’s all about me me me. I’m safe and in no threat of danger while the lives of family and friends could be gone in an instant.
I am so selfish. However, God is infinitely gracious and he has been by my side the entire time. While I have a constant need for attention, I have never felt more loved in my entire life. 3 years ago, I could literally count on my hand the number of close friends I had that I would feel comfortable reaching out to. In the past week, I can’t even count the amount of people that I have either talked to or the people who are praying for me and my family, some of who I don’t even know. And it’s not some quick prayer, it’s fervent prayers throughout the day. Some of my friends may even be praying more than I am. I don’t have much energy and often it’s too painful to process to talk to God about my feelings. All my professors have been also been so gracious, allowing me to constantly be on my phone to get updates or listening to me talk about what’s going.
I have a serious mental illness and have been in the hospital twice for extended periods but I am doing very well in that aspect considering everything. Stress and lack of sleep are main triggers for me. This has been one of the most stressful times of my life but for me most part my mood has been pretty stable. Except maybe for that one night, my anxiety levels have been moderate and God has given me so much peace. I was able to go to all my classes and finish a paper. I have been able to fall asleep within 15-30 minutes each night. Every night since it started, I have gotten a full night’s rest, except for that really stressful night where I got 5. Even getting 7 hours a night can throw me off but God gave me so much strength and my mood did not go out of whack that day. I have been able to find joy singing worship songs and teared up laughing with my friends last night. Today I have a lot more peace. I have been able to focus and process my thoughts to write this blog post.
Though being so far away, I have seen God’s grace explode at home. My dad’s house was miraculously saved. If you see the picture below, the arrow pointing to David and Pepper is his house and the yellow was all burned. Basically, his entire neighborhood was destroyed but his went unscathed, except for smoke damage. The night that fires were threatening the house he had evacuated to, the fires diverted and he didn’t have to leave. I heard on the radio that the evacuation centers are not accepting any more donations for now because people have been so selflessly providing. Dozens of restaurants are offering free food to everyone who needs it. At least 8,000 firefighters are there from states all over the west coast. Many have worked 80 hours straight, even while some of their homes have been destroyed.
There are probably hundreds of more heartwarming stories of how God has been providing. Despite all of this though, this good fortune that I have experienced may be hard for some of you to hear. Some of you may have lost everything. You may have family members who are gone or unaccounted for. It doesn’t make sense why my family’s house survived and so many of yours didn’t. I am deeply sorry for everything and words can’t express how much my heart is aching for you.
You still may be wondering, if God is real and loving, how can there be so much suffering in the world. That is a valid concern and is something that is still hard for me to explain and answer. The truth though, is that God did not want there to be suffering in this world. He created this world to be perfect. However, because of our broken nature we rebelled. We distrusted and disobeyed God, thinking that we had this under control. We didn’t trust that God could fully provide for us and selfishly went our own way, so sin entered the world and we separated from God. Sin brought all suffering in this world, including natural disasters and ultimately death (Romans 5:12).
Luckily the story doesn’t end there. 2,017 years ago, Jesus was sent from heaven to earth to save his creation. Fully man and fully God, he healed the ill and brought healing to broken people. At the end of his 3-year ministry, he died on a cross to take away the sins of the world (there is historical evidence that this took place, even atheists agree Jesus was a real person who died on the cross, and that the grave was empty). Jesus bore the punishment we deserved and rose 3 days later, reconciling us to himself so we could have a relationship with him and have eternal life (2 Corinthians 5:18). When Jesus returns, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away,” (Revelation 21:4).
If we put our trust in Jesus, repent from our sin and believe that Jesus died on a cross for us and rose again, we will be saved. This is my journey of how I put my trust in Jesus.
I don’t know why some of you didn’t fare as well as others. I don’t know why you may have lost your homes, pets, or loved ones. Take comfort in the fact that Jesus weeps with you (John 11:35). I also do know this: “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God will make something beautiful out of your pain. It doesn’t make sense now, but I promise, one day it will.
“Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”” (John 13:7)