Generally speaking, southern California has the reputation of being a pleasant place to live. Not this fall. Not when dozens of wildfires have erupted in the tinder-dry coastal desert brush. Even a very small cluster of sparks can be driven quickly a thousand yards by the howling Santa Ana winds, called “devil winds” by local firefighters. Over a half million people were evacuated from their homes in a wide swath from L.A. to San Diego.
What is shocking is the knowledge that some of those fires were deliberately set. That’s right. Arson . One of them burned 27,000 acres and 14 houses. What kind of sick sociopath would deliberately unleash the roaring fury of orange hell on entire communities?
Let’s not get too smug. The Book of Psalms is a collection of intensely personal voices, sometimes rejoicing and praising, other times grieving and questioning. Sometimes the same psalm gives a double explanation for the fires that are burning in our lives: we suffer from the cruelty of others, but we suffer also from wounds that are self-inflicted. That’s the very nature of sin. Sometimes we do evil thoughtlessly and carelessly, like flicking away a cigarette butt that is still glowing amid the tinder where it lands. But sometimes we act like arsonists, doing the evil we know is wrong.
The strong arms of Jesus are our refuge for both kinds of pain. He is a healer of our wounds and avenger of injustices brought upon us by others. But he is also the desperately needed fireman to put out blazes that we have set.