(Todd A. Smith)

I often hear non-believers say if God existed, why would He allow bad things to happen to people like illnesses, natural disasters and acts of violence?

Many say that if God really existed, or if He is all-powerful as believers claim, then why could He not just prevent tragedies from happening in the first place?

The truth of the matter is it seems that it takes heartache and setback for Americans (and probably people from other countries as well) to come together across political, racial or religious lines.

The latest natural disaster is Hurricane Idalia, and first responders from states other than Florida lined up to aid their brothers and sisters from the “Sunshine State” if needed.

Daniel Kozin of The Associated Press reported, “Hurricane Idalia made landfall Wednesday in Florida as a Category 3 storm and unleashed devastation along a wide stretch of the Gulf Coast, submerging homes and vehicles, turning streets into rivers, unmooring small boats and downing power lines in an area that has never before received such a pummeling.

“More than 330,000 customers in Florida and Georgia were without electricity while rushing water covered streets near the coast. As the eye moved inland, high winds and shredded signs, sent sheet metal flying and snapped tall trees.”

The storm has since moved into the Carolinas and thankfully the affected areas did not experience the type of carnage that hurricanes like Katrina and Harvey caused to residents of New Orleans, Mississippi and Houston.

And despite a heated presidential election taking place, President Joe Biden and Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis, two politicians from warring parties, came together to discuss what is best for Floridians adversely impacted by Hurricane Idalia.

But when things are calm, the country seems to go back to polarization and division.

Before Hurricane Idalia made landfall, many Americans donated money and their time to help the people of Hawaii deal with a wildfire that claimed over 100 lives.

And as bad as it sounds, I believe that God can do His best work to heal people and bring people together during a tragedy because during the good times many people do not see the need for unity, or the need for God at all.

One of the most unifying times that I can remember in my life came after Sept. 11.

Democrats, Republicans, African-Americans, White Americans and seemingly everyone in between were no longer just their demographic group or political party.

They were Americans bonded together by red, white and blue, determined to defend our country and prevent another terrorist attack from happening.

Football stars like Pat Tillman turned down lucrative paychecks from the National Football League to serve his country in the Middle East, ultimately giving his life for the country he loved so dearly.

Others without as much fame put their own personal career pursuits aside to serve as well.

However, once it seemed like the United States had a handle on the Taliban and al Qaeda, the divisions and the polarization returned to American society and politics.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area and parts of Mississippi, people from all over the world did whatever they could to assist their brothers and sisters from the Gulf Coast.

Musicians made charity songs.

School buses came in from Texas to transport the displaced from the Superdome and bring them west and to higher ground.

The City of Houston opened the iconic Astrodome as a shelter and the Houston Independent School District and other local school districts welcomed displaced children into their school system.

Some Houstonians even opened their homes to strangers.

Others donated clothes, food and toys to people who had lost everything.

However, when many of those people got on their feet and got settled in their new cities, they turned violent against the same citizens who had gone out of their way to help them in their time of desperation.

Thankfully, when Houston found itself on the receiving end of the horrific Hurricane Harvey, the residents of Louisiana and other nearby cities and states came together to help their neighbors from the “Bayou City.”

Former Houston Texans star J.J. Watt used his celebrity to raise millions of dollars to help Houstonians that had lost everything during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

But just like in other tragedies, as soon as everyone got back on their feet, the same hate and division reared its ugly head.

So, when I hear people blame God for not protecting everyone from natural disasters and acts of violence, in my mind I believe God allows tragedies to occur because people seem to not be able to come together when everything is copasetic.

Therefore, if people truly want God to prevent tragedies from occurring and protect them when the inevitable happens, maybe people need to be more proactive when it comes to uniting and not wait until they must do so in order to come together as one.

Unfortunately, we see the same dynamic play out on smaller scales also.

Families often beef when everyone in the family is healthy and above ground.

But sometimes it takes death and health scares for family members to bury the hatchet and come together.

So, let’s not wait until God makes us come together to actually come together.

Let’s unite during the good times, so it’s not something so unusual during the dreaded bad times.

Todd A. Smith
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