Do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they? (Mt 6: 25-26)
Consoling words. Yet God can’t begrudge a fair question, so let’s be candid with the deity and ourselves. Life is full of troubles, and words don’t take them away. What sort of guarantee is God making?
The wisdom of an old woman—eighty-nine to be exact—might help with an answer. Alice Demuth, a parishioner we buried this week, wrote a personal memoir, recording her farm life here in Western Kansas. Here’s a story she tells about a storm.
Palm Sunday in 1935 was a day very few people would ever forget. My parents and whole family went to Ben Rohlman’s to help out the family, as they were sick. They had moved from Sharon to north east of Willowdale. We had small chickens that were turned loose outside of the brooder house. Mom said I was to stay home by myself and get the chickens in if it would rain. I did ask, “Why me?” She said she needed Rosemary to help her.
About two the wind came up. I looked out and there was the most blackest cloud, coming right for us. There was no time to go to the basement with an outside entrance. I hadn’t seen anything like it before and neither did anyone else. I thought it was a tornado. I ran for my folks’ bedroom, crawled onto their bed and covered my head with a pillow and hung onto the bed. I thought of crawling under the bed but was afraid it would fall on me. It got pitch black. I really thought it was the end of the world. It was total darkness. After awhile I knew what it was. The dust almost choked you. It was the worst dust storm ever experienced. I groped around in the dark, found some matches, and lit the lamp. I never worried about the chickens. All I did was pray.
It was hours later, and it was still the same. I worried about the folks and wondered how many days this could last and I’d be alone. By evening it started to rain and cleared the air. The chickens had found their way into the brooder house okay.
The folks still didn’t come home. I was really worried. It was dark when they came. They had high water over a draw that they had to drive through so they had to wait for the water to recede.
My mother said she was so worried, as she thought I would have been outside, chasing in chickens when it turned dark and I would have gotten lost out there. Never again was she going to leave one of us home alone again. I had just turned eleven years old.
Where was God when “the end of the world” came on Palm Sunday, 1935? The chickens were left to themselves, but they did alright. So did Alice and her parents. But it’s not always like that. Some of life’s storms take everything.
Isaiah’s folk asked a very similar question. “Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’” They were told:
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you (49: 14-15).
What is God guaranteeing? There is no promise to still the storm. Yet, when our hearts turn to heaven, God’s heart will be with us, just as Alice and her mother’s hearts were joined on that dark day. But are hearts straining toward each other in the storm enough? Yes. In God, all storms pass. All sorrows end. And only hearts remain.
Isaiah 49: 14-15 1 Corinthians 4: 1-5 Matthew 6: 24-34