Therefore I retract, and repent in dust and ashes.
Evil had victory in Emporia, Kansas that day… on Labor Day, 2003 Reverend Steve Gormond lost his wife and four children to the sweeping current of a flash flood. He was driving the minivan that contained the most precious of all cargo and as he was sucked out of his window, he watched the beastly water swallow his entire family in an instant. There was nothing he could do. The raging current devoured them in the blink of an eye.
In a situation such as this, one would expect rage and wrath to come from the mouth of its victim. He was devastated and broken by a force of nature; a villain he couldn’t see or retaliate against. His response, however, was opposite anything I understood as natural; there in front of a mass of news cameras and police officers, his grieving response was, “God is God and I am not.” He said this as tears of sorrow poured down his grief-stricken face.
This is a man who knows God, a man who knows the power and the fear of God so well that, in the face of the greatest of all human tragedies, he was able to humbly acknowledge the goodness and plan of his Creator.
As I think of him, I’m reminded of Job. Job was also stripped of all that He owned and held dear, but, in the end, was still able to say, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know… I have heard you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)
So my question is, what is my response to life’s devastations? Am I able to say, “I retract and repent” as I stand in the dust and ashes that remain? The devastations and tragedies of life serve to teach us the power of God, a power we all to often like to forget; the power that destroyed the entire earth with one great flood, the power that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness, the power that tore down the walls of the city of Jericho with the blow of a trumpet. This is the power of my God and I have to admit that I am scared. This is the God that I’m afraid to know; the God that allowed Job to lose every earthly treasure, the God that allowed Rev. Steve Gormond to lose his wife and children.
I do not understand this God, but I pray for humility and reverence to acknowledge Him as God despite the circumstances. I want to come to know Him in such a deep way that, even when He takes all that I love and enjoy, I am still able to say, “I repent in dust and ashes” and proclaim to the world that, “God is God and I am not.”