In the course of only a few weeks, there have been horrendous mudslides in Sierra Leone, three catastrophic hurricanes along the southeastern coast of the United States and across multiple other islands in the Caribbean, devastating floods in the U.S., India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and other places across the world, destructive fires in the northwest United States, tragic earthquakes, and all sorts of other natural disasters.
It’s caused some of us to stop and ask “What’s going on?”
In moments like these, it’s easy to read a scripture like Mark 13:8, which says, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows,” and say that the events of the past month are just another sign of the times. It’s easy to say that the end of the world must be approaching and that God is starting to cleanse the earth. But is this true?
I was thinking about this in an institute class last night where we were learning about the Savior’s attributes when my teacher said two things that caught my attention. First, he said that Christ is a creator—the Creator—and that it’s not His nature to destroy things. He only creates, forms, organizes, and develops or changes. Second, he said that God knows what we need.
So wait a minute, does that mean we need all these natural disasters? And I also didn’t see how all these tragedies were creating anything. They only seemed to be destroying.
As I’ve thought about it over the last few days, though, this apparent paradox actually works. I spent the better part of a morning the other day watching video footage and news reports from the floods in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey. There were many heartbreaking stories of people being trapped or stranded, children shivering from the cold and wet, or families losing everything, and I’m sure there are similar stories from the other calamities. But do you know what I took away from all of that? That humanity is not lost. As hard and tragic as natural disasters on this scale are, it is during these times of extreme distress that I witness the spirit of Christ and the inherent charity of every human being that is no longer hidden behind petty things like status, race, location, age, or gender. It is in these moments that God seems to create the greatest love between His children and help them see the value of every life and create the greatest number of opportunities to serve and give and create an environment where people remember their faith and refocus priorities. Even those not directly impacted by the effects of these storms and disasters soberly learn lessons from watching the victims and recommit to give more generously and follow the counsel of the prophets to prepare and have faith. This is what we need. God is preparing us for His coming by reminding us of His love and uniting our faith and energy in a way that teaches us to be more like Him and find joy.
My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes, livelihoods, keepsakes, and especially family members or friends. But I hope in the wake of these sad events that our world communities can keep alive for a long time the desire to serve more and love deeper as we reach out to help rebuild lives. Remember the verse that comes before the earthquakes and famines: “And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.”