It’s a conundrum we’ve lived with since the birth of civilization: why bad things, like killer tornadoes or deadly storms, happen to good people.
What hit Beauregard and Lee County three days before Ash Wednesday was a monster of a beast. With winds nearing 200 miles an hour, the tornado roared through the East Alabama countryside killing 23 innocent people — many of them members of one family — at rest or play on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
Trees were snapped in two like old twigs. Homes were ripped open or apart, and contents were blown and scattered across the countryside.
No one saw this disaster coming until it was too late to react.
Among the deceased were old folks, young people and parents, male and female, who were involved in everyday life situations when that roaring nightmare fell upon them.
Our hearts were broken when we learned the details of how deadly and how horrible this twister was. It was among the worst in our nation’s history. More people died in this one tornado than in all tornadoes combined in the U.S. last year.
But, we have to believe that God did not cause this terrible disaster. God did not want it and did not stand aside and allow it to happen.
What God does do is give us the mental and physical strength to cope with these terrible storms and losses, to mourn and bury the dead and care for the wounded. And then God helps us to go on the best we can.
The wise Jewish rabbi Harold Kushner delved into this subject 20 years ago when he penned his book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”
Kushner wrote that God is not in control of ordinary or extraordinary daily affairs. God does not order nor prevent disasters. Tragedies are not God’s will. Ours is a caring and compassionate God.
We have to believe that God is as outraged as we are by the forces of nature.
What God is in control of is the healing of our hearts and minds. God can touch the hearts of the surviving victims, offer assistance to the severely injured and console families of the lost.
God can help us through the mental breakdown we suffer in disasters. God can assist us and help us deal with the physical hardships caused by the storm.
We must remember that whatever we have, whether life or property or possessions, we eventually lose. Nothing on earth is forever. Protecting the things we own should not be our primary goal.
There is personal pain, of course, in the loss caused by a tragedy. Ways of life, joys of life, can be gone ever so quickly. There one minute and gone the next, as we witnessed.
Yet, God expects us to carry on amid all the heartbreak. Not to shake our fist in anger, nor to give up or give in, nor to live in fear, nor to carry with us constantly the sadness and emptiness of great loss.
God is there with us through the mourning and the business of moving on.
What good we saw from this unbelievable tragedy was overwhelming. Brave first responders rushed to the battlefield scene, with little regard for their own safety, and quickly began digging out and patching the wounds of the scores of survivors.
Soon after, aid in the way of medicine, food and clothes flowed in quickly from civil and religious relief agencies and from individuals.
Hospitals threw open their doors to care for the wounded, and churches hopped to feeding and sheltering the displaced.
Family members and friends rushed to help with calm and gentle words of encouragement. The deceased were blessed and carried away. The Poarch Indians, generous givers, paid for their burials.
Prominent leaders, including the president, the governor and elected officials, came to witness, to mourn and to offer a helping hand and a hopeful heart.
All of what happened after the storm was the work of a loving and caring God.
God did not send this disaster our way for a specific reason. There was no punishment involved. We must believe that God was as outraged as we were.
In knowing this, perhaps our hope in the goodness and dignity of life is restored.
God blessed all the victims and all those who laid aside their own tasks to patch up the wounds, physical and mental, of the injured. And then God offered up a strong shoulder to cry on.
Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.