What exactly is a disaster? The dictionary defines it as “an occurrence inflicting widespread destruction and distress; a grave misfortune; a total failure”.

I suggest replacing that last one with “a total cleansing”. Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, avalanches. Insurance companies like to call these events [with the exception of arson in the case of some wildfires] “acts of God”, which erroneously evokes visions of a vengeful old man with a flowing white beard, punishing humankind for being disobedient servants. Why not “God cleaning house”? That’s exactly what they are. Nature has its own way of maintaining balance on Earth. Humankind has invaded the natural element and altered the terrain and environment in such as way as to cause physical and material harm during times of natural cleansing, but these events are essential to the health and well-being of the very planet we call home.

Let’s take it down to a very basic human level for a moment. When the body is full of gas, it erupts, does it not? That’s basically what happens in the case of a volcano, is it not? Now that we’ve had our chuckle of the day, let’s move on. Hurricanes, earthquakes, avalanches, tsunamis, wildfires, tornadoes are all nature’s way of cleaning house. These phenomena have been going on for eons and will continue as long as the planet exists.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the US in August 2005, the outcome was indeed disastrous according to the dictionary. Lives were lost. Homes were destroyed. And the Big Easy will never be the same. That’s where the opportunity for growth and cleansing comes in. By now, everybody knows the stories about how it all happened. The entire world watched as Katrina slammed into the coastal wall. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief after the storm passed, but then the levees gave way. They had been in a major state of disrepair for decades. Residents of the Ninth Ward were rightfully concerned, but updating and maintaining the integrity of the levees was not a priority. The breech in the levees that caused the massive destruction of an entire city made them a priority. I have no guarantees, but I seriously doubt they will ever again be allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair.

In the Bible, fire has always been a symbol of cleansing and enlightenment. God spoke to Moses through the burning bush. God provided the Israelites with a pillar of fire to light their way during their Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. Fire was used as a means of offering sacrifice to God. There are countless references throughout the Bible that depict fire as a healing, purifying gift from God.

Wildfires, when caused by natural events, are God’s way of thinning overly dense forests and making way for new growth. Landslides and avalanches are normal and natural reactions of the earth in response to heavy rain or snow. They become disasters only when lives, homes and property are threatened or lost.

As the population continues to increase, natural phenomena will more frequently be classified as disasters because more and more lives will be affected since there is far less uninhabited land. We must look at each loss through a natural event as an opportunity to learn, upgrade, and grow. As a result of Hurricane Andrew, the state of Florida implemented new building codes and guidelines, preparations have improved as have evacuation procedures. This doesn’t mean that all property loss has been eliminated, but with each hurricane season, the system improves a little bit more.

As we think back to the massive earthquakes of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, we can easily see how humankind has adjusted itself to this particular force of nature. While they give no advance warning, building codes have improved significantly and many more lives and possessions are able to endure the Earth’s trembling. Construction codes were adjusted in Japan, many other parts of Asia, and the west coast of the US, so that buildings are now ‘earthquake proof’. These newer structures have withstood powerful quakes that would have toppled older, less stable buildings.

In the case of wildfires in California, Florida and other parts of the United States, the challenge is more daunting because there is no advance warning. Preparations have improved, as have firefighting techniques, but when those strong Santa Ana winds blow through California, there is still little to be done to stop the raging infernos. We watch as celebrities and executives are suddenly revealed to be as vulnerable and real as everybody else as they rummage through the rubble of their homes, salvaging charred keepsakes, heirlooms and memorabilia.

They see very little to be thankful for except the fact that they are still alive, but the blessing is they now have the glorious fortune of clearing away the old and opening themselves up to the gift of releasing the obsession with things no longer essential to their peace, prosperity and spiritual growth.

This is the lesson of all so-called disasters. Like beauty, what has become known as a natural disaster lies in the eye of the beholder. God is merely cleaning house.

Author's Bio: 

Vernelle Nelson is a native of Washington, DC, who lives and writes in South Florida.

Her latest book – DON’T INVITE ME TO YOUR PITY PARTY – helps readers rise above negative energy and events with humor, common sense and spiritual guidance. The author gets her message across in a very unique and personal way using an easygoing conversational style that makes this book a pleasure to read.

Her 2008 release – FAVORABLE CONDITIONS – guides readers through the process of self-discovery by showing them how to shed the destructive labels placed upon them by parents, teachers, authority figures, colleagues and friends. By ridding themselves of these false identifiers, readers are able to claim their true nature and therefore create Favorable Conditions in all aspects of their lives.