Twenty-six years ago May 18, 1980 at 8:32 a.m., Mount St. Helens erupted.
In one tremendous blast, the top 1,314 feet of the mountain was obliterated.
The Washington Post reported: “The explosion was heard 690 miles away and spewed enough ash to cover a football-field-sized mound 150 miles high.
“That ash could be measured in 11 states and soon would circle the earth.”
I was in Sunnyside, Wash., at the time and I, like millions of others, bore witness to the unexpected the most destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history. First the landslide, and then the mountain blew its top.
I will not soon forget that day because I was aware that something had happened that no one could control. Nothing could stand in its path. Nor would it do any good to try to ignore it.
Harry Truman not to be confused with our former president who lived on the mountain, tried to do just that, and died as a result. Its force was unimaginable.
My friends, Bill and Anita Gardner, faced such an unexpected explosion in their lives.
Their oldest son, Billy, was in a motorcycle accident that resulted in him being in a coma for the rest of his life.
His parents chose to care for him at home, so, for the next seven years, one of them was at home at all times. What a stress this must have placed on the entire family, both parents and siblings, as the demands on time and energy were constantly present.
You may have suddenly faced some sort of major trauma in your life. Was it an unexpected death, serious health problems, loss of employment, rejection by a friend or some other devastating event or situation that entered your life?
Whatever the cause, you were, or are confronted with the need to put life and or relationships back in order.
While each of us may not be greeted with a volcanic eruption, all of us are faced with the unimaginable and the uncontrollable things that test us and try our faith; situations so complex we can only shake our heads in disbelief.
That thought might have occurred to the Psalmist when he wrote, “God is our refuge and strength therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,” Psalm 46:1,2.
After Sept. 11, millions of Americans gazed with awe at television reports of the rubble of “Ground Zero” in New York. How could this have happened to our nation? Is there any safety or protection for those of us who chase the American Dream?
Many visitors have reported that today, after some 26 years, Mount St. Helens has come to life. Trees were replanted and now some stand 70-feet high. That which was so devastated is now alive.
So, too, with you, my friend. That which may initially appear to be the end of all hope, may, with time, patience and faith, become a new beginning.
“In his time he makes all things beautiful,” Ecclesiastes 3:11.
Take heart, my friend. What we cannot control God can!
The tragedies of our world may appear to destroy our hopes and dreams, but they can never destroy the power that caused them to grow in the first place.
The testimony of Bill and Anita Gardner, through all of their tragedy, was that their relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ was the key ingredient in maintaining a solid marital and family relationship.
In a similar vein, I recall the experience of Joni Erickson Tada. After a swimming accident that left her a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, she discovered a wonderful, fulfilling life of ministry, far beyond her previous dreams.
This recovery from devastation to new dreams and purpose came as she refocused on God’s greatness and purpose for her.
In the same way, I recommend that you and I seek to maintain a strong and vital spiritual life that will serve as an anchor when the Mount St. Helens-type situations arise. We will then have the spiritual resources to discover the ultimate purpose God has in our facing the trauma.
How often we will see that out of the devastation grow lovely flowers of character and opportunity for greater good.
Like Joseph back in olden days, we may say: “You thought evil against me; but God meant it for good,” Genesis 50:20.
Charles G. Thornton is pastor at-large of Peninsula Grace Brethren Church, 44175 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Soldotna. Sunday worship is at 11 a.m.; Bible classes are at 9:30 a.m.
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