In these last few months, we’ve seen a series of tragedies too horrible to have been imagined: hurricanes, one after another, brought death and devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Nature’s wrath was accompanied by man-made tragedies in Las Vegas and Sutherland, Texas. The loss of life and property brought pain and suffering that will continue for years to come and, for some, may never be overcome.

This Thanksgiving will be celebrated by many in shelters or bleak circumstances without running water or electricity. For others there will be empty spots around the table. Some may not feel like giving thanks at all and may be asking, “Where is God?”

It’s a question as old as time, but the answer remains the same: He is as near as you want Him to be. He will not force himself on you, but if you will allow Him in – even in the darkest of circumstances – He will comfort you. He will help you and He will uphold you with His righteous right hand.

There are those who reject God. They simply can’t imagine a loving, all-powerful God who would allow pain and suffering. That was not God’s original plan. In Genesis we learn that God created earth and handed it over to man, whom He created in his very image, in perfect condition. It was man who relinquished control to Satan by disobeying God. At that point sin entered the world, along with death and all the pain, suffering and wrath we are experiencing today.

Sin separates us from a holy God. Sin is serious, deadly serious. From the beginning of the Scriptures we learn that there can be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. However, God, who exists in three persons – Father, Son and Spirit – loved us so much that He sent the Son to us to show us how to live and to shed His innocent blood for us once and for all (John 3:16).

Jesus, the Son, paid the ultimate price for us and achieved victory over sin and death for all who will accept Him. He rose from the dead and promised that all who believe and allow Him into their lives will rise from physical death to live with Him for all eternity.

Jesus did not promise those who invite him into their lives that this life would be a bed of roses. If that were so, people wouldn’t come to Him out of love, which is His desire, but out of greed – for the goodies. In fact, Jesus said, “You will have suffering in this world.” Notice He didn’t say that we might. He said we would. (John 16:33).

However, we can know that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Yes, all of mankind will experience physical death, some younger than others and some tragically so, but this is not the end. It is only the beginning. We are also promised that “all things work together for those who love the Lord” (Roman 3:23).

These past months have been particularly difficult for me. Perhaps you have noticed that my column was missing for quite some time. My dear husband, Roger, suffered a series of medical problems that put him in the O.R. seven times in the last five months. We believe that he is now on the road to recovery, although one of those surgeries was life-threatening.

Through it all we experienced God’s grace and blessings at every turn: an operating room that was opened at just the right time, three teams of specialists who were assembled for one of those surgeries in two days’ time, friends who traveled miles to be with us during the most difficult times, five Spanish angels we did not know who came to the hospital to pray for us one dark night, a home nurse who showed up at our door at the right time when things took a turn for the worse, a friend who dropped everything to fly us two and a half hours to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix where Roger could get the help that was needed.

The experience was quite difficult and humbling, but we know that we are stronger for it. Once, after losing a loved one after a long battle, I asked God, “Why?” The answer that came was unexpected, “To allow you to serve her.”

Yes, through all these tragedies there are blessings, opportunities to serve and be served. We need only to look for them to see God’s hand.

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