Tennessee is a place with constantly changing weather. I wish every weekend would cooperate by letting me tend my garden without getting soaked, but I am truly thankful for the precipitation that waters it.
This week has been marked by some extreme weather. As of Friday, the death toll was at 16 from the tornadoes and thunderstorms that swept through the center of America, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf.
Our hearts mourn for the devastation and loss. I spent the day driving back and forth in one of the most vulnerable areas of the storm. Tornadoes had been spotted nearby, but although the danger was obvious from the dark and foreboding sky, I wasn’t fearful.
That sense of security is a blessing, because I know how terrifying these storms can be to some folks. I witnessed first-hand the devastation in East Nashville in the 1998 tornado that ripped part of the roof off the building where my husband preached. It completely flattened another church building a block away.
Some of the false security I witnessed on Friday bothered me, though. There were flippant remarks about the weather and the lack of danger. We don’t have to be fearful to have a healthy respect for the power of a serious storm system. Let me rephrase that; we need to respect the Power that creates such an awesome display of his might. When a storm system claims 16 lives, it is no joke.
God is described in the Bible in terms of lightning flashes, thunder, earthquakes, and other cataclysmic phenomenon, as in Jeremiah 23:19, Nahum 1:3, Exodus 19:6, Psalm 77:17-19. Words would fail to accurately and completely describe God’s power and majesty, so we must compare it to a puny F5 tornado. Make no mistake; when we see extreme, violent weather, it is mild compared to what God can do and has done.
At the other end of the spectrum are people who worry and stress about the storm. We cannot diminish God’s power in the storm nor the danger, but we must not allow our emotions to become more extreme than the weather itself.
Jonah survived being thrown into a storm at sea and being swallowed by a fish. The children of Israel witnessed the thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai for forty days.
God is still in control, even though people get hurt. We, as God’s people, must be there to provide help for the suffering and spread the word, both about God’s power and about his love. In the meantime, our faith in his loving care should never waver, no matter what happens or might happen.
The third type of reaction I see during events like this is the person who turns to God for help when danger is imminent. Of course that’s a good thing, but it must be stated that there may come a time when it is too late.
“When your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. When they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:27, 28, NASB).
Don’t wait! You need God in the sunshine, not just through the storm.
We need the sunshine, we need the rain. We need storms, too, if only to get our minds straight. God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind. He speaks to us today through his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). Hear him.