Rivers, Floods, and Disasters!
During the summer of 1993, much more rain than usual fell in portions of the United States. By June of that year, the Mississippi River overran its banks and flooded farmlands and cities in several states. More than 25,000 people were evacuated from their homes, and at least 50 people died.
In the spring of 1997, rain caused the Ohio River to overrun its banks. Thousands of people had to leave their water-covered streets, houses, and even entire cities. Once again, several people lost their lives.
Numerous tragedies like these have happened throughout history in many parts of the world. Sometimes a drought has occurred, causing the land to become parched. This makes the soil extremely dry and hard. When rain finally does come, the ground cannot absorb much water, and flooding results. Sometimes the ground can absorb water, but too much rain falls too fast. Or, perhaps the ground is soaked and the rivers are full already, and so when rains arrive there is no place for the rainwater to go.
Rivers can be our friends in many ways. Sometimes, however, rivers become our enemies as they flood cities or counties, destroy homes, and even maim or kill. How should we respond?
First, we should remember that God never intended for mankind to suffer or die. At the end of His six days of creation, God surveyed everything He had made and pronounced it "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Everything was perfect—just as God created it (and intended it) to be. Dangerous diseases and human death were unknown. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, but when they sinned against God the Earth was "cursed" (Genesis 3:17). Things began to go wrong (in Romans 8:19-21, the apostle Paul spoke about the Earth being under "the bondage of corruption"). Due to man’s sin, things weren’t perfect any more. In Genesis 6, the story is told of how people became so wicked that God sent a worldwide flood to destroy mankind and all land-living animals. Was any of this God’s fault? No! Each time, when bad things happened, it was man’s fault. Today, when bad things happen we need to remember that the Earth isn’t perfect any more because man’s sin has had terrible consequences. We don’t live in the Garden of Eden any longer.
Second, sometimes tragedies occur not because of sin, but simply because people have made honest mistakes. For example, if homes are destroyed or people killed because a river floods a city, it might be because people built their homes and cities too close to the river in the first place.
Third, when bad things happen, we should remember that this world isn’t our permanent home (read Hebrews 11:13-16). If we obey God, then someday we will go to heaven to live with Him and His Son, Jesus. Our time here is short (James 4:14), and with God’s help we can overcome whatever comes our way (read Romans 8:35-39 and Psalm 46:1-3). When tragedy strikes, the important question is not, "Why did this happen to me," but rather "How can I understand what has happened, and how am I going to react to it?" Peter said that after we "have suffered a little while," Christ would "strengthen" us (1 Peter 5:10). Sometimes terrible events (like a river flooding) actually can make us better—if we will let them. When times are tough, often people exhibit great bravery, courage, and love. They turn bad events into good opportunities. What a nice thought. Let us always trust in God, and look forward to being with Him in heaven someday!