Living Columns & Blogs

In times of disaster and tragedy, God is near

During these very tumultuous days we are experiencing, you may have asked where God is in all that’s happened. It’s been the question asked during all the ages, when for many, God may seem to be absent in the public arena of life, and in one’s own personal circumstances.

With so much bombarding us each day, the pain and need seems overwhelming at times. I wonder not only where God is, but what is God trying to do in my life when I am paralyzed about where to even begin to understand it all.

My faith affirms that God is near, in every one of the horrendous things we’ve seen lately. God is near when neighbors, strangers, firefighters, police officers, nurses, doctors and relief agencies immediately spring into action — rescuing people from rising waters, finding emergency services to lift those to hospitals and safe places. God is near when one person shields another from a man with a gun. God is there when we clamor for more relief efforts and money to support people to get on their feet again. God is within us, urging us to reach out and do all that we can to help. We can work with the many relief agencies that are present when disasters happen. We can fill cleanup buckets, health kits, school supplies for children and offer many other needed things. Most of all, we can give what funds we may have to offer, so that those in the midst of disaster can have the means to do what is needed most at that time.

All of our faith traditions teach us to love and care for one another. There are myriad ways to show love by walking with those who are side-lined by the circumstances of their life. We show love and mercy by becoming advocates for a better health care system that leaves no one out. We can work to make a more just and equitable place for every person whom God has created. We can speak out and support changes that need to be made in our gun laws, so that senseless shootings will not become “normal” for us.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul reminds us: “... let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). In these often difficult days, God has not abandoned us, but rather empowers us to live in the grace and hope of God, doing as much as we can to help alleviate the pain and suffering we see around us, so that others may also know God’s presence surrounding them.

The Rev. Ann Graves is a retired pastor in the United Church of Christ who lives in State College. Contact her at