If God’s Word does not have something significant and true to say in New Orleans today, it is not true in the rest of Louisiana tomorrow.
If God’s Word does not have something significant
and true to say in New Orleans today, it is not true in the rest of
But God’s Word does have some thing to say in the
aftermath of Katrina. God’s Word never fails. It is true in New Orleans
today – and in all of Louisiana tomorrow.
The Epistle of James gives us the sterling truth
that trials and tragedies are tests. We generally do not like tests,
but when they come, we are wise to heed carefully what they reveal.
For years, the levees that were built to protect New
Orleans have been tested, and they failed the tests. People familiar
with New Orleans’ position below sea level and the levees that protect
it have known that they were not adequate for a Category Four or
stronger hurricane. Yet, what the tests revealed was not heeded. All
that happened was that different governments argued about whose
responsibility it was to strengthen the levees.
And then, the test progressed when Katrina burst
upon the city as an unwelcome, destructive guest. Would the entities
involved be able to move fast enough and efficiently enough to provide
for the needs of human tragedies Katrina brought? By all accounts,
almost all the entities involved failed this test.
So, people fell into actions that only slowed the rescue work further.
Everyone practiced the blame game. Local and state
officials blamed the federal government and agencies. Federal agencies
blamed local and state governments. It was as though everyone involved
believed fixing the blame on someone would fix the problems. Some
people blamed God for not stopping the hurricane dead in its tracks
before it hit land. Others blamed the city of New Orleans for “being a
den of iniquity and getting what it deserved.”
But fixing the blame on someone in the midst of the
crisis never fixes the problems, and it slows down getting on with the
There were also choruses of “Why?” Why were the
levees not adequate? Why were the pumps not built so they would not be
disabled by a flood? Why did people loot? Why did people shoot at the
very people trying to help them?
But there are no perfect answers to the whys of the
perfect storm. Seeking answers to “why” only bring more frustration and
usually brings us to inadequate and/or false conclusions.
Trials put pressure on us – they squeeze us. And when we are squeezed, what is inside us comes out.
One woman in a relief center complained that the
meals were not hot, the showers were cold, the children did not have
adequate play areas and others did not respect the children’s need for
naps. Another woman in the same shelter thanked
everyone for all their kindnesses and help and said what was being done
was wonderful. What was deep in their character came out under
pressure. Their tests revealed who they truly are.
Some people looted because that is who they are.
Some people shot at rescue workers because that is who they are. Some
acted heroically because that is who they are. People played the race
card – both ways – because that is what is inside them. Others showed
love and appreciation because that is what is inside them.
Some passed the tests; others failed the tests.
And the tests continue. Our endurance and patience
and love and willingness to “do unto the least of these my children”
will be tested for weeks, even months, maybe even years. Certainly, we
will be tested as we never before have been tested.
We will, at times, find ourselves exhausted in the
tasks. We may want to quit. And in these times, we will be wise to
remember the words of Jeremiah (12:5) “If you have raced with men on
foot and they have worn you out, how can you complete with horses?”
We have run with the men on foot. We have been
tested. What have we learned – what will we be and what will we do
better? Now, we must compete with horses. What will the test reveal?
We can rely on human wisdom and human strength and
what goodness there is in us, and if that is all we do, we will fail
the tests. But if we commit this entire tragedy into God’s hands and
rely on his strength, and seek his mercy, we can see what one lady in a
relief shelter said become true: “In Christ, we are not victims; we are
We can see the redemptive forces of God work in and
through our lives so that these tests reveal the eternal truth of
Romans 8:28, “And in everything, as we know, he cooperates for good
with those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (The
New English Bible) And then, we can echo the 37th verse of that
chapter, “And yet, in spite of all, overwhelming victory is ours
through him who loved us.”