By Rebecca Barlow Jordan
Greenville Herald Banner
Who’s to blame? The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought massive finger-pointing. Why? Because when we’re angry and have no answers, we seek to blame somebody. It’s part of human nature. Why were some rescued, some not? Why the delay in sending help? Why were some spared, others not? Who will pay for what we lost?
In the absence of answers, here’s an alternative. Blame someone bigger. Blame God. He’s the only one who can take it without flinching, excusing or defending. Blame the One who allowed the hurricane in the first place. Accuse the One who refused to block its path. Lay the burden at His feet. Tell Him how you feel. That’s what the Psalmist David did in Psalm 22:1-2: “My God…why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.”
Now, do you feel better? But just remember that the God who did not reverse the hurricane’s destruction is the same One who commands the sun to shine with hope and the rain to quench our droughts. He’s the same God who longs for unity in the midst of division. His heart beats with love in the aftermath of hate. In fact, if you look closely, you may be surprised to see tears in God’s eyes.
Instead of playing the blame game, let’s try the “name” game: name the blessings we still have, the friends we’ve just met, the breath we still breathe, the help we can give, the fresh start we can make and the lives we can touch. Instead of pointing fingers, let’s paint on smiles. Instead of raising fists, let’s embrace hearts. Instead of looking back, let’s gaze forward. No government or state institution can meet every need. If every American gave what he/she could, can you imagine the total combined financial aid? And if every American offered one helping hand, can you envision the circle of unity we’d create? And if every American decided to “name” blessings instead of blame others, how much more quickly would we recover?
Don’t be too quick to judge those who need to blame someone, however. After loss—any loss—the heart sometimes finds its way back slowly. Like a stray pup hungry for home and belonging, each victim reaches out, trying to find his place. And each reacts differently. The greatest threat in a tragedy such as Hurricane Katrina, is not the disorderly stealing of abandoned goods, but the sad robbing of hearts left behind. That’s what grief of such magnitude tries to do—to steal away the reason and hope and good once stored there—and replace it with anger and blame.
Who’s to say we would not act the same? Tragedy flushes out the worst and the best of who we are or could be. We don’t know our response until we walk in those waters. But regardless of the initial heart reaction, we can make a choice. Disbelief, grief and anger soon give way to acceptance—and that paves the way to hope.
The Psalmist abandoned his blame game and discovered a better way to handle his grief: Psalm 71:20 could have been spoken by any flood survivor—or observer: “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.” They are the words of those who have crossed the line from victims to victors.
Sometimes—many times—God uses our arms, our legs, our voices and our pocketbooks to bring that comfort to others. Will you join in exchanging the role of finger-pointing for comfort-bearing?
© Rebecca Barlow Jordan