Have you ever found yourself counting your blessings while all around you, countless others are licking their wounds? Here in the Washington, DC metro area, we've been recovering from the after-effects of a storm called a derecho, named in Spanish for the characteristic way it travels in a straight line. The term was first used to describe a storm in 1888 which crossed my home state of Iowa. They typically involve winds of at least 58mph (50 knots) and stretch over 250 miles.
The one that blew through here started in Ohio and produced damage all along its path, though it knocked out critical infrastructure here in the nation's capital at a time when temperatures were already peaking for the summer. Thousands of people found themselves without power, without telephone service, without internet connectivity, without a way to stay cool or cook or keep their food preserved. Fallen trees crushed cars, houses, and memorials. The damage was extensive and stunning, of the sort normally seen in a tornado.
At my house, we awoke the next morning with our power on and our propane tank full. Our cable internet connection was the only service we lost. What a blessing! And apart from a few leaves and small branches in the yard, you'd hardly have guessed a large storm had blown through our yard.
My wife and I wanted to take the kids out for breakfast, so we hopped in the car and left our home, and even as we drove through the neighborhood, we noticed more and more damaged trees the farther we got from our home. It almost seemed as if the farther we got from home, the worse the damage got. In nearby Warrenton, we saw and photographed this tree which had fallen and almost hit the county courthouse. I found out later on Twitter that it had toppled a monument to John S. Mosby as it fell.
For a while, we felt blessed. We felt as though God had spared us from the worst of the storm's rage and bluster. We were thankful and spent much of that day in prayer. But as the weekend wore on, that feeling of being blessed turned into something else, and I began to feel guilty.
By Monday, listening to the stories of my co-workers talking about how they were still without power, or had lost hundreds of dollars of groceries, or had struggled to find ways to stay cool in the scorching heat, I didn't really want to engage and talk about how God had blessed my family and kept us safe. I had no idea how to do that, to describe how fortunate we were, in the midst of so much suffering, to have had God's favor. I didn't see how any testimony from me at that moment would have advanced the Kingdom or God's message in any way. I'm afraid it would have just as likely sent the message, "God loved us more than you. Doesn't that suck for you?"
I almost wish I had been able to suffer alongside them! I read recently in the preview chapters of Jeff Goins' book Wrecked that the very definition of compassion is to "suffer with". Not being in the same place as those affected by the storm, how could I express compassion?
I realize now that I could have sought out opportunities to help those who were affected, and taken advantage of the fact that God spared me any direct effects. I could have found a way to engage with those in need and been a source of comfort and assistance.
What do you think? How do you reconcile His blessings when others around you aren't as blessed?
Image CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 http://www.flickr.com/photos/bartku/