In times of disaster God’s motivations can become hazy. Whether our disaster is personal or on a broader scale, our human imaginations can fall into two errors of thinking about God in the midst of it. When the storm strikes, we can be tempted to see God as a hardened architect of doom, hurling troubles on people to show off His divine power. How can God be good if God does things like this? Ruining relationships, jobs, marriages, ministries, cities, or nations, this portrait of God is up close and terrifying. Conversely, our more common response in disaster is to picture God far off, removed and untouched by the struggles of our lives. We picture Him in heaven, located beyond the most distant stars, and so out of reach of our disasters that He has the privilege of not caring, or at least not acting while our world spins out of control.
In our most troubling times, the motivations of God can seem mysterious, but He doesn’t intend for them to be. Instead, God reveals what He’s about in His word. In Colossians 1:19-20 it says:
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, [Jesus] 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
This scripture is short but deep, probing the realities of God’s nature and character. Moreover, between the lines, it reveals the truth of God’s character in disaster.
For God was Pleased…
The word “pleased” is translated from the Greek word eudokeo. It often describes the thoughts we have and choices we make that bridge both heart and mind. God was “well pleased” or “thought well of” having all His fullness dwell in Jesus. Why? Because Jesus was Immanuel, God’s way to be with us, the man through whom and in whom He comes fully near and close to us, to His creation. God wants to be near. In Jesus, the fullness of God stepped into humanity, into our triumphs and even more into our tragedy. Through Jesus, God shows us that He isn’t scared to come close to us, but rather He is zealous to draw nearer to us, so much so that He steps into the form he crafted in the Garden.
This isn’t the picture of God violently opposed to humanity. This isn’t the picture of God removed beyond the reach of our hopes and fears. This is YHWH-Shammah, the LORD Who Is Here.
To Reconcile to Himself…
On top of this, the Scripture says God wasn’t just pleased to dwell in Jesus, but “through Him to reconcile to Himself all things.” If you want to know what seems right to God’s heart, the Bible says it’s reconciling us and our world to Himself. To reconcile means to rebuild right relationship between two parties. Racial reconciliation seeks to restore right relationships between people groups. Divine reconciliation seeks to restore right relationship between everything you’ve ever seen and known back to its Maker. God doesn’t do it because He has to. God does it because it’s what seems good to His heart. God’s conception of goodness is you and Him and everything around you in right relationship with Him.
That reconciliation extends into your disaster. Every aspect of it, God seeks to make right with Himself from the core of His being. That’s why Jesus came; that’s the reason why there is such a thing as Christianity, because God’s heart was, and is, to reconcile. “All things” includes the most broken aspects of your situation, what seems broken beyond fixing. Jesus’ footprints on earth are a sign that God is doing something about it.
Whether on Earth or in Heaven…
Jesus also points to a vaster scale of reconciliation happening around us. In Him humanity meets deity, Earth meets Heaven, and the two come into union. In the midst of our physical struggle we can forget that we are experiencing the aftershocks of cosmic struggles occurring behind the veil. God is in the process of making all the enemies of Jesus a footstool to His feet. The same enemies seek to take the processes of nature and wield them to disastrous effect against humanity. They are flailing about in imminent defeat, trying anything to separate people from God’s reconciliation work. But every moment, God is drawing earth and heaven nearer together. With every disaster that confronts us, the enemy loses ground by inches at each step we make to recovery. God is reconciling heaven and earth.
Peace through His Blood, Shed on the Cross.
Finally, God’s work of reconciliation draws down to one point on the Cross. By the greatest disaster of all, the crucifixion of the Son of God, God works peace in every disaster we face. The blood shed on the Cross soaks deeper than the flood waters in Houston, and covers more than any storm surge the world has ever seen. At the cross, God makes good on all His claims to mercy, giving us a baseline confidence that God will show mercy to us in whatever disaster we face. In covering our sins with the one and final sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah, God reveals that He will let nothing get between us and Him, not even something etched into our nature. How much more will God redeem our disasters? The Scripture shows us a God who draws near to disaster, so let’s expect for Him to meet us there.