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}



Late Sunday Evening…

“Late Sunday evening when the disciples were together behind locked doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you,’ he said, and then he showed them his hands and his side.  So when the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus repeated, ‘Peace be with you…'”    John 20:19-20

Christ had been crucified like a common criminal.  He died and with Him died the courage of His followers.  His body buried in a cave.  Similarly, 10 of the remaining 11 disciples caved themselves behind locked doors.  They buried themselves, hiding in fear of what Jewish leaders would do  to them next.  Terror was palpable.

For three years Jesus walked with them, led them, taught them, inspired them.  His Presence had been their courage, their protection, their peace.  Now all of that was gone, vaporized with Christ’s last breath at Calvary.  Despite Mary’s proclamation earlier that day, “I have seen the Lord!”, there was no celebration among these men.  Only shaking in their sandals.  For all Jesus taught them and revealed to them… parables, sermons, signs, wonders, miracles, fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures…it came down to this.  A backroom gathering of fearful, forgetful followers.

John 20:19 says, “Jesus came and stood among them…” I wonder, in their desperation for solutions, did they notice Him at first? Or were they too busy fretting over their circumstances? Were they reliving in heated conversation Christ’s arrest leading to his death?  Did they argue over who was to blame?  “John, you should have stayed awake with Him in the garden.”  “Peter, you ought not have lost your temper with the soldier.”

How long did Jesus stand in their midst before He cleared His throat and spoke?  “Peace be with you.”  Was it a shout? A whisper?   Perhaps a simple observation that peace found its way into the room the moment His Presence entered.

Peace.  The first thing Jesus spoke to His disciples was the very thing they needed most.  Fear that gripped them melted away as they beheld Christ’s hands and side.  The frightened group witnessed the Presence of Jesus and the Bible says, “…they were filled with JOY.”

How many instances in my life have I behaved like the disciples in hiding? Locked up with my emotions and fears.   Fretting over my personal
circumstances.  Playing my situation over and over in my head.   Feeling apprehensive and uncertain about my future. Wondering, “Where is God now?”

As if He knew the message bore repeating to distracted hearts like Peter’s, and
John’s…and mine…Jesus said a second time, “Peace be with you.”

Today as waves of my circumstances crash against shorelines of my existence I hear His voice.  “Peace.”  My deepest need is met in the presence of my resurrected Lord as He stands between me and the unknown.   It is this Peace of His Presence which leads me to JOY.