Where was God in Waldo Canyon Fire?

“Where was God in the Waldo Canyon Fire?”

Someone posed this question in comments on my last blog.  Not a surprising question, this seems to come up often in disaster or tragedy.  Where was God during 9-11?  Where was God during Oklahoma City bombing?  Or on a personal level: Where was God when my loved one got cancer?  Where was God when war ravaged my spouse?  Where was God when…

Possible versions of this question are as numerous as persons who utter it.

Evacuating our home in Foothills of Colorado Springs during “the worst fire in Colorado’s history”, I glanced back to find our entire neighborhood engulfed in smoke.  Flames and black clouds spanned the Front Range.  Many people later commented how it appeared all of Colorado Springs was on fire.  This catastrophic scene gripped my heart as adrenaline coursed through my veins and stole my breath.  Ravaging effects of fire exploding onto our ridge in 65 mph winds wholly obstructed my usual sublime view of mountain vistas, not the least of which our beloved Pikes Peak.

This rock solid, glorious mountain inspired Katharine Lee Bates in 1823 to pen lyrics to America the Beautiful.  She later referred to it as “Gate-of-Heaven Summit”.   America’s Mountain, 10 miles west of Colorado Springs, 14110 feet above sea level {or 14,117 depending on which account you believe}, 38 acres of grandeur, Majestic Pikes Peak,  vanished from view in a chilling haze of smoke and flames.

In chaos of incineration and devastation of the Waldo Canyon Fire, did Pikes Peak move?  Was this magnificent mound any less regal or glorious than days before?  Could unspeakable disaster minimize its majesty, stymie its strength or lessen its loveliness?

My agonizing inability to see Pikes Peak did not alter the mountain’s presence nor could it.  Despite cataclysmic crisis, “Gate of Heaven Summit” stood resolute.  Likewise, the God of Heaven and Earth, unsurprised by human events, remained steadfast, majestic throughout this travesty and countless others before.

 The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. Psalm 93:1-2 NIV

I understand and empathize with the question, “Where was God when…” In my life I’ve experienced numerous times when I couldn’t feel God.  Well-meaning friends advised me to stop relying on feelings because they aren’t real.  Mature Christians, I’m told, put no stock in their feelings.  I must respectfully disagree.  Jesus experienced a deep range of emotions…Joy for little children who came to Him, sorrow over deaths of His best friend Lazarus & cousin John the Baptist, compassion for those who sought healing of Him, betrayal at the kiss of a disciple, and agony & abandonment in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Feelings represent an integral part of the human condition.  They let us know we are fully alive.  They signal that something is wrong…or right…depending on the situation.  The key is not to let our feelings overtake Truth articulated in God’s Word.  Facing fire, evacuation and beyond a most compelling Truth comforts me,

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1

In times of great human suffering, we may struggle to “see God”.  Yet His Presence never abandons us to our circumstances.  God takes no holy holidays or celestial coffee breaks.  God did not evacuate the premises during the Waldo Canyon Fire.  No vacancy sign hung from heaven.  No missing celestial person’s report needed filing.

Eyes of our soul play tricks on us and we cannot always see clearly what lies beyond the veil of dark clouds in our path.  Yet, inability to see grandeur cannot diminish its reality.  Our God remains our constant companion just as sure as Pikes Peak emerged from beyond a smoky haze, glorious and majestic.

True to His Word, “I Am with you always even to the ends of the earth…” {Matthew 28:20 American KJV}  God is here in Colorado Springs just as He has always been.

Even beyond this assurance of His Presence, God doesn’t expect us to merely believe He caused something tragic to happen in Colorado, and we just have to accept it.  That would stir an even greater ache than a fire’s devastation.  Instead, our Creator walks this painful journey through a broken world with us.  He is acquainted with our grief and bears our sorrows.

Immanuel, God with us, shares in this gut-wrenching tragedy.   His heart breaks with ours.  He weeps with those who mourn.  In anxiety and calamity we discover our deepest need for God and in these times, if we look for Him, He reveals himself most precious to us.

      God give us eyes to see.

 

 

 

 

{photo by Megan Gendron Howe}

 

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28 responses to “Where was God in Waldo Canyon Fire?

  1. Lydia Reynolds

    I’m from Fort Collins and I’ve been asking this question too. I’m saving this link and passing on to friends. God bless you.

  2. Im sure God is doing what he needs to to assist people to grow and move on, to make them stronger – and help them realise what they have at hand…. Its probably a test of faith, and strength in him that he is challenging everyone with. Thanks for posting… Take care Hun

  3. What a powerful post. Love, love, love your word pictures.

  4. Ditto what Scoti wrote. Holy holidays and celestial coffee breaks…you’re a scream even when you write about really deep stuff. Love you!

  5. found this in a google serch asking the question. very helpful and timley. thank you.

  6. Dont Need Your god

    Sure god was there just like he stands idly by watching 9 year old gilrs in sex trade in 3rd world countries and child abusers in America and people getting blown up in senseless wars in the Middle East. Next your going to write and tell us that god is good all the time, right? You christians slay me.

    • If God isn’t good all the time then He isn’t good at all. In which case I would have to agree with you. I don’t need a God who isn’t good. Come to think of it, if He isn’t good all the time He isn’t God. Seems to me you’re mad at a god who isn’t God at all. You may want to check out the real God, the one who is good ALL the time. You can find Him everywhere when you finally open your eyes but His word is a great place to start. Praying–really. May he give you eyes to see.

  7. Hey Di, would you please thank your friends and readers for prayers for us? I got my first day off today from fighting fires but have a load of buddies still out there. Please keep praying. Thanks. Great post too. I wouldn’t want to be out there if God didn’t go with. The stories I could tell you about his presence would give you goosebumps. When this is all over I’ll let you buy me a beer and we’ll talk.

  8. Neil from Sydney

    We’ve observed in horror over the past week as media from around the world blasts your stories. We haven’t forgotten the nightmare Aussie fires we lived through few years back. Binds your heart up to see so much destruction and poor wildlife with burned feet or dead across the landscape. Never seen so many dehydrated wombats and wallabies. Expect you’ll see wildlife scavanging your refuse as their food supply now gone. Do be careful.

  9. Ahhhh…the age old question, “Why does God allow suffering?” Michael Ramsden gave five talks on this and didn’t even begin to answer the question. Here’s one of those talks:

    “How do you expect me to believe in God,” asked Woody Allen, “when only last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of my electric typewriter?” For a while now, at least in the Western world, the existence of any form of pain, suffering or evil has been regarded as evidence for the non-existence of God. If a good God existed, people say, these things wouldn’t. But they do and, therefore, He doesn’t.

    My job takes me around many different parts of the world in order to answer people’s questions about the Christian faith. I find it fascinating that I have never been asked this question in India, which I have visited on many occasions and which certainly knows a lot more about suffering than we do. I find it even more intriguing that Christians who write books in situations where they have known unspeakable torment because of the Gospel also do not normally raise this as an issue for themselves. Why?

    There are so many ways in which the question concerning pain can be raised. It can be because of personal loss and pain, or because of a personal interest in the issue of theodicy (the theological term for the question we’re looking at here) – to name but two. However, regardless of which way the question is raised, it normally comes down to a moral complaint against God: ‘How could you allow this to happen?’ The complaint is against God’s moral character: ‘Can I really trust God if I see this happen?’ If you are sure that you can trust Him, regardless of the pain you find yourself in, there is no temptation to turn away from Him, as He is the only one who can help.

    First, let’s deal with the argument against God’s existence. Ravi Zacharias has dealt with this brilliantly in his book Can Man Live Without God? If you argue from the existence of evil to the non-existence of God, you are assuming the existence of an absolute moral law in order for your argument to work. But if there is such a law, then that would also mean that there is such a God, since He is the only one who could give us such a law. And if there is such a God to give us this law, then the argument itself is flawed, since you have had to assume the existence of God in order to argue that He doesn’t exist. In short, it is an attempt to invoke the existence of an absolute moral law without invoking the existence of an absolute moral lawgiver, and it cannot be done.

    Second, we must also ask the question, which we often fail to do, about what it would take to create a loving world. A world in which love is capable of meaningful expression and experience would also imply a world in which there is choice. If someone tells you that they love you, those words mean something because they are freely given. If you learnt that someone had told you that they loved you and that they had been forced to do it, their words would not mean very much. If you want to create a loving world, you must also create a world in which choices can be exercised. And in such a world, there is also the possibility of choosing a course of action that is not loving, namely evil.
    However, these observations do not answer the heart of the question as I think people most commonly ask it. Can I trust God even when faced with great evil? Is He morally trustworthy? Can I trust Him even if I don’t understand what is happening?
    These are profound questions, and whole books could be written about them. But I would offer one observation for your thoughts: Maybe the reason we question God’s moral character when bad things happen is that we live lives largely independent from Him. In other words, do we really trust Him even when things are going well?

    I said earlier that I have never been asked questions about God and suffering when I am travelling in countries riddled with the realities of it. In fact, when I visit churches in parts of the world where they are faced daily with the horrific realities of suffering, I normally leave inspired. They trust God in everything, even when things are going well. When times are hard, they cling on to Him because they have already learnt to trust Him. God hasn’t changed, even though the circumstances have.

    Maybe we struggle with suffering so much in the West because we are so comfortable most of the time that we feel we don’t need God. We don’t rely on Him on a daily basis, and so we don’t really know Him as we should. When suffering comes along, therefore, it is not so much that it takes us away from God, but that it reveals to us that we haven’t really been close to Him in the first place.

    Obviously we can’t address all of the intellectual issues involved here, but, as well as the book already mentioned, let me suggest The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis; God, Freedom and Evil by Alvin Plantinga; and Evil and the Cross by Henri Blocher.

    However, what may challenge the critic of God in the face of suffering is not another book on the subject, but rather seeing more lives lived out in dependence on Him, regardless of what is going on around us.
    Michael Ramsden 2005

  10. Dear Di, thanks for asking a great question! Our Rockrimmon home was 1.5 miles from a tongue of this fire and indeed, we prayed for God’s strength, courage, and wisdom! We were both “evacuated” before the evacuation call came, as we were committed elsewhere, which means, we grabbed a few things, prepped the house, and left in prayer. Like everyone else in that boat, we were anxious about what might happen, but as before when faced with things we don’t understand and which we can’t control, we simply prayed for GRACE…the grace of God’s power and love to give us strength, patience, faith, and acceptance, no matter what comes. This time tragedy pretty much sidestepped us, but when we lost a daughter at birth in 1982, we had nothing to hang onto except the Grace of God. Even in that moment, He brought us many gifts, the greatest of which was increased faith in Him. God bless everyone who is suffering. Know that His grace is upon you if you will embrace it. :} Chevy

  11. Here’s Ramsden’s five-part series regarding God and suffering.
    God of Love: God of Judgment?

    God of Love: World of Suffering Part 1

    God of Love: World of Suffering Part 2

    God of Love: World of Suffering Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq6pG71K69w&feature=related
    God of Love: Church of Arrogance

  12. God of Love: Church of Arrogance

  13. A lot to think about here. Reading comments from different perspectives I wonder if the fella who doesn’t need our God has ever had to depend on him like your fireman friend. I think God is certainly a lot easier to see if we are looking for him. I been doing a lot of that as of late. His word tells me he will be found of me when I seek him with all my heart. If were not seeing i”m thinking its not God’s fault. You know? For a long time it was just easier to take my anger out on God and blame him for all the stuff going wrong in my life. Now i’m figuring out just how patient God really is with us. I’m still looking for him in a lot of things but I’m not ready to say he isn’t here just because I can’t see him yet. Maybe I need to squint but I’ll find him sooner or later.

  14. Beautiful post! Where are the faithful followers like Jacob and Moses, that trusted the Lord and followed him. Or Job that bo matter what he Praised the Lord even when lost everything. When I hear “Where was God…” I cannot avoid thinking “where are we as a society, as a community, as a person” Are we willing to leave everything and follow Jesus? Great post DiAnna amazing, inspiring and refreshing 🙂

  15. It isn’t by accident that we find God in painful places. I pressed in to him on the flight back to the US rushing to get home to care for my mom on the west side of Centennial Blvd, Colorado Springs. The site at 30k ft of our hometown in flames below tried to devastate me on our descent. Feelings ARE real. Very real. I felt kicked in the gut. That’s as real as it gets but Truth of God’s Presence trumped the gut. Peace that passes understanding. Thanks for a beautiful post, as always. Touching to the core

  16. Jeanette England McKinney

    God has to allow us to suffer. It refines us like gold has to be held in the fire to purify it. To be of value to our God he has to purify us to help make us humble and stronger. God was there saving lives and helping to get through it.

  17. My problem is I want to feel God and I don’t always. I let my emotions run away on me and get me in trouble acting on feelings. This is really good advise. Probly if I knew more about God and bible promises I could worry less. I don’t read the bible much because it seems kind of hard to understand and I wonder if it applies to people today plus with all those rules and comandments it makes me feel like I’m doing everything wrong. I wonder if God is even interrested in someone like me when he should be paying more attention to the people who are getting it right all the time. I kindof made a mess of my life with some bad realationships and choices that didn’t work out like I thought they would. Anyway thanks for some good advise.

  18. I’m glad Jesus has you Di.
    At the risk of sounding callous to the question on “Where was God when…” I’m down to “In every heart, risen or crucified.”
    Much peace towards His finishing what He started. Love you sister.

  19. Other than Calvary, I have recently been introduced to some of Helen Keller’s biography as sort of a viewpoint to “Where was God when (or in) this happened.”
    In hearing of her amazing story of childhood, I tried to imagine being without the senses of sight or hearing; almost instantly Hebrews 4:12 came to mind and heart and I had a greater perspective of start, an embryo of Truth – a sure foundation up-kept by the builder as the cornerstone.
    My days in a mental ward were not out of the “In Him we live and move and have our being.” and my special needs were being uncovered by a Special God with and by His Special Love “The person Jesus Christ.”
    It is ordinary to have special needs that only a Special God can fill. We must be an ordinary Special individual confirmed by God the Father into His Family and what a family it is whose forefathers were burned, dismembered, fed to beasts, outcast-ed and crucified for our sake. Ordinary vessels with Special Treasure.
    May the Father, through His Son, by His Holy Spirit in relationship to His presence, keep us single eyed in the assurance of His completed on going redemptive work towards salvation, the Glory of His Kingdom.
    We are blessed.

  20. Hey Courtney,
    I salute your honesty and honestly, honesty is what Jesus is really good at listening to. I believe He loves us being honest with Him so that we can see Him being honest with us; so, may I suggest that you thank the Father for your and every situation, it doesn’t have to be with good feelings, you are just recognizing Him as sovereign over, of and in your Life.
    No more black dog white dog, just the realization of Galatians 2:20 brought about by the Holy Spirit as the breast plate of righteousness.
    When you thank Him in all your situations you acknowledge that that you aren’t that big of a god to where you can screw up a situation to a point that He can’t or didn’t take care of on His cross. He will show you that your run away emotions are really healthy in that He is using them to turn your eyes upon Him and away off yourself. He will do the trusting in you and you will find yourself loving you by His great Love for you and then you can love your neighbor as yourself with the great Love He has for them. Remember as the Holy Spirit brings forth, the prize is not emotions but the Life that Jesus Christ is in you, this is the seed multiplied hundred fold.
    Do not take thought for tomorrow for He will be there for you also. The person that you always wanted to throw yourself upon is in front of you, in back of you, to the sides of you, above you, below you and in you.
    Jesus doesn’t want us to have good taste, He wants us to taste good.
    To use one of Di’s favorite words “Joy” Courtney.

  21. I found this article spoke to me on both a personal and spiritual level.
    I even went back and reviewed the Book of Job to re-familiarize its words and teachings on this subject. Funny thing, I think of the Book of Job as having a sad ending when actually the ending is very happy!

    As many of you recall and several have pointed out, there is no “blessing tree” for us to harvest those desires we have of the heart. Just because we pray it won’t happen, sometimes it still does. Sometimes the house still burns down.

    Our doubting Thomas friend “Don’t Need your God” above points out that bad things happen to innocent children each day and God stands by and doesn’t do a thing to help. He says, “Next your going to write and tell us that (God) is good all the time, right?”

    That is EXACTLY what I’m going to do. In Uganda where people live at the lower end of the standard of living spectrum, our Christian Disciple Brothers/Sisters have a saying that they share when they meet each other that goes like this:

    First: “God is good, all the time.”

    Second: “All the time, God is good.”

    Together: “Because that is his nature!”

    My observations of these brothers and sisters is that they are VERY happy with not a lot of materialistic things but a deep love of God and one another. They trust in him daily…not just for the nice things in life, but for everyday things like enough food to eat, a safe place to sleep, or to get to live to see another day.

    God gives us all the right to choose. He also allows us to face the consequences of our actions if we make bad decisions. It isn’t so much that he allows evil to enter into our lives as it is that WE allow ourselves to be influenced by evil things.

    Of course, none of this has a thing to do with a fire in Colorado Springs, but lets look at things from a slightly different perspective: If we live to see another day, God has taken care of us. We may have to use some insurance money to rebuild a home that burned to the ground, we may lose all the materialistic items we had in the home, but we are OK and set for another day and a little bit more grateful for the really important things in our lives like Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made for us, our health, and our family.

    I saw Di’s Facebook post the day she had to evacuate and everyone was given a chance to go in their home and retrieve “valuables” before they had to evacuate. Ask yourself what you would take if you had 10 minutes to go into your house and get your valuables! (P.S. – I’m betting that most of the readers have a 2 car garage that 0-1 cars can fit into right now!)

    Everyone has made some really great observations and shared some neat insights and even sermons that go a long way to explain this difficult topic.

    The bottom line for me is that God asks us to be faithful, loyal, and obedient servants. He doesn’t make us do these things, he asks us to do these things. He also knows, full well, that our imperfect nature will prevent us from being faithful, loyal, and obedient all of the time. We just need to trust him, ask for forgiveness of our faults/sins, and love him and others with our whole heart.

    Peace be with you.

    First: God is good, all the time!

  22. Hi Andy, and all the time, God is good!
    If I may, could I say that a lot of times people are not on the same page with what good means. For instance: I see a young cashier at Walmart and she has a tattoo of of the divine comedy masks on her left forearm. I ask her if that tattoo is permanent and she replies “Oh yes.” I say “No not really, I give it 80 years tops.” Now if one was watching the transaction, they could conclude that there were two meanings for the same word “permanent” depending on one’s view.

    On the word “Good” we have a definition in Isaiah 54:7 where the Spirit of God speaks ” I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” etc. Now I ask myself – can The Fountain produce sweet and bitter water at the same time? My answer is no for all His mountains are brought low and all His valleys are filled in the Goodness that He is by the Love that He can’t help but be.

    That is why it is so important to have the viewpoint of the Holy Spirit seated at the right hand of the Father in Christ Jesus, after all Jesus has done and is doing for us by His completed ongoing work which is the Father’s business.

    Thank you,
    We are blessed, Jesus is enough.

    • Richard,

      We are blessed, Jesus is enough!

      I would SO like to sit down and buy you and Scoti Domeij and a bunch of the other bloggers a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage (and possibly a little something to nibble on) — I know that God would bless us all with some pretty neat insights to a good, long conversation.

      Couple of thoughts to share on the verse in Isaiah, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

      Interesting thing about creating light, it allows you to understand what true darkness is. I remember taking the family to Mammoth cave in Kentucky. The kids loved “spelunking” (caving). My wife Joanne and I were a little anxious at first with our daughter since she was only 7. They had a stretch of cave called “Fat Man’s Misery”. Once I had more trouble going through the tight areas than the kids ever would. but suffice it to say we all had a really great time. At the bottom of the cave the seated us all in an arena shaped area and told us to stay put and they would show us “absolute darkness”. Let me tell you, when the lights went out you couldn’t see your hand in front if your face with your eyes wide open if you wanted to! Boy was it dark. The absence of light is true darkness. Therefore, if God created light, he defined what it is to be in darkness.

      The same can be said for peace and evil. If we understand what love is (agape — not eros or phileo) as God defines it, then we automatically understand what love is not. Agape is the very nature of God, for God is love (1 John 4:7-12, 16b). Agape love is not simply an impulse generated from feelings. Rather, agape love is an exercise of the will, a deliberate choice. This is why God can command us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Exod. 23:1-5). He is not commanding us to “have a good feeling” for our enemies, but to act in a loving way toward them. Agape love is related to obedience and commitment, and not necessarily feeling and emotion. Evil is often based on feeling and emotion, hence, both Love and Evil are defined by God.

  23. Thank you for the coffee and nibble offer Andy and for your insight into God being God as prompted by the selfsame.

    Di is well versed in the loving and praying for your enemies commandment as experienced in her desire to personalize the will of the Father who loves her so that He sent His only begotten Son that she should not perish but have everlasting Life. Anyone knowing Di’s His-story is well evident in her exclamation of being Loved brought about by Love as person. The banner over her is Love.

    It is the Truth of your statement of the desire of the Father to bring us to a recognition that we have no Friendship to lose by praying and blessing our enemies (from an (True) eternal perspective.) If we had a split camera layout on our view, it would be of the most interest in watching the outcome of 9/11 if the United States went into mourning, prayed and blessed the families of the murderers, as a friend suggested, for their sons were so deceived that they reckoned their being as being of more value. A healthy example of “Love for others” was the Amish lavishing Grace to the wife and son of the milkman who killed young children and then himself at a Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania a few years ago. They were griped and sustained by Love minus good feeling and good emotion.

    Happy Pentecost, as always, Jesus Christ Lives Changelessly.

  24. Di, I think that we are all waiting for your literary brush, mixed with Love and concern, to paint us another excellent landscape portrait of what is happening around and in you – knowing all along that there is a place and time for everything under God’s heaven. You are in our, as we are in your, prayers. Father loves you.

  25. What a treasure to read these comments! Thank you, all.

    Indeed, God is Good ALL the time. I’ve kept silent mostly because I anticipated a strong exchange of ideas but also because I disappeared for a few days. When we were allowed to return home after the fire, it was a mess. Smoke and ash had permeated the dwelling, standing intact & untouched by fire yet covered in black soot. Our home was declared unsafe because ash is a carcinogen and it was EVERYWHERE. So we evacuated again. I’ve been in California for the past week, letting our Good God wash over me like waves on a nearby beach. It’s been a gift to rest, refresh, visit old friends and laugh & cry with them. I’ve posted on FB about some of it and it’s open to Public for anyone to read & see pics.

    The home is being cared for by a restoration team, removing everything in for cleaning. Then washing walls & wood flooring, replacing carpets, insulation. It’s quite an undertaking. But hopefully all will be good as new when I return next week. It could have been much worse. I’m incredibly blessed to have a home to return to and friends to love on me until then~ Including loving friends on this site. I’m profoundly grateful. Bless You. JOY! Di

  26. And I’m grateful profoundly to be your friend. Bless you. JOY! Richard
    For you:

    (If link doesn’t reach – please copy and paste into web browser.)

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