Hope in the devastation

January 24, 2020

God’s reassurance of a new way forward. 


We have been facing a traumatic situation in our very dry nation in recent months, with devastating bushfires burning across our land. We are at the height of our fire season and have had days of high temperatures coupled with strong winds which are bringing catastrophic consequences.


Tragically, lives have been lost. More than six million hectares of land have been burned. Countless homes and buildings have been destroyed and millions of animals killed. Thousands of people have been evacuated, with many still displaced and having no home to return to.


At the height of the catastrophe, the news bulletins seemed to constantly tell us about new locations in the potential path of the fires. Horrific images of blood-red skies, thick smoke and devastation filled our news feeds. Those of us who were still in the safety and comfort of our homes were left wondering how we could help those who were in the heart of this disaster.


I have been a part of The Salvation Army my whole life and I well remember the Ash Wednesday (1983) and Black Saturday (2009) fires, but also the overflow of generosity from members of the public, all wanting to do something to help. Multiple warehouses and individuals were involved in storing, sorting and delivering the physical goods for many, many months after the tragedies were experienced and almost forgotten.


While this is awesome in theory, the best resource to receive at times like this is money. Cold, hard cash requires no storage or transportation infrastructure. It can be immediately accessed and distributed, and can help to stimulate the local economy that often faces a bleak future.


It means that people who are already reeling from their situation are given the opportunity to purchase things that they need, rather than what others have thought they might need.


This has caused me to reflect on why we want to give so generously at times such as this, and I wonder if it is to combat our feeling of helplessness in the face of such tragedy, and the desire to see people get through the crisis and rebuild their lives.


Australians are notorious for pitching in to help in times of need. We band together to support those in crisis and this could be locally, nationally or internationally. We are especially good at the moment of disaster, but the road to rebuilding and recovery is long and hard.


Even as a community is being rebuilt, there is still work to be done to address the emotional recovery from trauma. While every person wrestles with what their new ‘normal’ looks like — it can seem that the rest of the country, and the world, has moved on to focus on the next emergency, while their lives are stuck. This is not a deliberate act of insensitivity, it is merely a reality in our fast-paced, information-overloaded society. Let’s remember those impacted, long after the current headlines and stories have become yesterday’s news.


This whole situation can begin to feel quite bleak and overwhelming, but I am heartened to already see images of hope springing forth in the middle of devastation. Pictures of wildlife returning to blackened areas and green shoots pushing up in fire-ravaged forests are small signs that all is not lost. It is the regenerative nature of the environment, and observing it can help us see a way forward. The Bible reassures us that out of the ashes, beauty can be found (Isaiah 61:3).



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