Seeing His Goodness, Even in Tragedy
by Karen Milioto
I stepped out of my daughter’s room and heard the door click softly behind me. The tears that I had suppressed through her bedtime prayers began to pour down my already blistered cheeks. It had been two weeks since the floodwaters tore through our property, trapping our beloved horses on a hill far beyond our house. My husband and I were nearly killed, as we fought for hours to rescue them from the raging current in the pitch black and pouring rain. Then, when our efforts proved futile, we headed home, heartbroken and shaken beyond belief.
In the following days, I was forced to tackle challenges I never anticipated as a parent. How do you explain to a small child that the same water that churned outside of her home for two days had made it impossible for her pets to come home? She had built up the two bold and valiant creatures as unbreakable in the ongoing fairytale in her young and optimistic mind. Which words are best to convey that kind of defeat – without also simultaneously defeating her? And is there a perfect answer to the ongoing stream of questions about the lines of debris piles, the tents in yards, the cars in ditches and the families struggling to survive behind each of them? And how does one concoct the kind of courage within themselves capable of convincing a child that the world is still safe when their own bones lock in fear at the sight of a single drop of rain?
These were just a few of the concerns that swirled in my mind as I stepped into the hallway after listening to her prayerfully request that Jesus scratch those two sweet pets in their new heavenly home. As I headed toward our living room, I stopped for a moment to study a large piece of art on the wall, the words of Jeremiah 29:11 carefully scripted in white: “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans for hope and a future.”
“These are Your plans?” I whispered to God, indignantly. I mentally tallied everything the flood had damaged in our home and throughout our community, and couldn’t help but wonder if God was failing to deliver on this once comforting promise.
Now I am quick to take clips of cozy feeling scripture to display on the walls of my home. The poetry of the Bible’s sweetest words comfort and encourage me through each hectic day. But the problem is that somewhere along the line, the context of those phrases can be lost after a while. Clearly it had been for me, because that verse would have made much more sense in those critical moments after the flood, if I had taken it for what it truly was: God’s promise to a group of broken people in the face of massive destruction and limited hope.
Later, when I pulled my Bible off the shelf, wiped the dust from its cover and flipped through each page of Jeremiah, I processed the details of the Israelites’ struggles with a fresh perspective. Then, when I got to the 29th chapter, it was no longer the 11th verse captivating me. Instead, it was the 12th and 13th verses drawing me in: “Then you will come to Me and call on Me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” In that moment, I realized that I needed to seek God with far more tenacity than I had been previously. I needed to pursue Him in the places of scripture that confused me and even scared me. If I wanted to understand God’s presence in tragedy, then I needed to dig into His Word and worship, study and pray in such a way that begged God to reveal answers to me for the questions that I never wanted to ask. Short clips of scripture may be catchy and sweet, but the peace that I received from fervent seeking was what ultimately comforted me with an unshakeable resolve that God is with me always and His plans are infinitely good.
Karen Milioto says prayer, study and worship helped her realize that god’s plans are infinitely good.