Tornadoes and the End of the World

This has been quite the week. Last Saturday people around the nation alternatelyheld their breath concerning the end of the world prophecies (probably not thatmany) and then laughed about the audacity of anyone who would make the claim toknow once past midnight. That was Saturday.

Sunday night the end of the world did come for 142 people in Joplin, MO(100 still missing) when a tornado cut a five mile path through the heart oftown. I don’t believe the two are related. However the irony of this isinescapable.

Wednesday twisters hit near Kansas Cityforcing many of us to our basements. We were grateful when we learned theymissed us but sobered to hear they hit Sedalia, MO. So how are we supposedto feel? What are we to think? How do we talk about these things?

I know how I felt on Sunday night and again on Wednesday. I felt grateful we weremissed and humble at the same time. I couldn’t find it in me to celebratewhen I knew that my good fortune was the opposite of a whole town’sexperience.

Why? Who chooses? Does someone choose? Is it fate? Bad luck? Random activity? Living through a tornado feels a little like someone is playing Russianroulette. On one hand you hear stories about children being ripped out of thearms of a mom and a woman whose husband gave his life protecting her. He puther in a bath tub and laid on top of her only to have a projectile pierce hisinternal organs. Who wouldn’t be horrified by stories like that?

And on the other hand it is in times like these where you see the best of the humanspirit come out as people come from around the nation to ban together andprovide relief.

But a deep problem remains when you attempt to think through how to find securityin light of the fresh realization that we are indeed mortal and fragile. How doyou turn to and embrace the God who seems to act so capriciously? Obviously itwasn’t an act of judgment because Christ followers and non Christfollowers died. How do you make sense of this?

Personally I don’t believe God picked and chose who made it and who didn’t.Although many of those who lived gave God credit for having them in a differentplace other than the path of the tornado. I saw an interview with a man on TVwho said he prayed to receive Jesus Christ after he just missed enteringeternity earlier than anticipated. That is one take away from this–we need tolive in a state of readiness. Life is fragile. We are mortal. Tell those youlove I love you often because you never know. Plan your life as if you willlive into the golden years but live as if today was your last day.

Perspective is helpful here. I had to wrestle with why does a good God allow bad things tohappen to His children when my daughter, Megan, died in her sleep at 21 monthsold from viral pneumonia. I don’t want to minimize the struggle in anyway but if I could summarize years of soul searching I would put it this way.I’ve discovered a personal relationship with God that is real and daily.I believe the Bible is God’s word and that it is inspired and true. Whenmy experience tells me something different I’ve learned to doubt myknowledge and perception not God.

There are many things I don’t understand but the longer I live and the more Ilearn the more I realize that God’s ways are higher than mine. He haspurposes in everything He allows and I’ve learned to trust Himimplicitly.

I believe He set up the world with intelligent design. He created a complicateduniverse not to mention this ecosystem we call earth. There are laws of naturethat are beyond me. He put it in motion and it works fantastically well. Hedoesn’t have to make it rain nor does he whip up tornados for the fun ofit.

He has given us free will. People make their own choices that put them in the pathof disaster or safety. He does hear and answer prayer—which can affectthe outcome. And He does speak to individuals although we don’t alwayslisten. There is help for those who are seeking but even then no one livesforever.

Randomness and chance are a part of this life and that is the way it should be. If Godalways rewarded the good and always pounded evil we would have people turningto God out of self protection. We wouldn’t need faith and Godwouldn’t offer grace and mercy. But if there is anything we need in thislife it is grace and mercy. Additionally, the Bible tells us that “faithis the victory.” 1 John 5:4

Back to my personal experience, God is Good. He heard my prayers. He answered no. Heloves me but He doesn’t protect me from everything in this life. I getthe full meal deal just like everybody else. However, He rewards faith. Hespeaks more than I listen. And the longer I live the more I’ve learned tolove Him and trust Him. I’ve learned you can lose everything else in thisworld and if you have Him you have enough. He’s proved that to me to thepoint where I no longer have fear. The converse is also true, you can haveeverything in this world and if you don’t have Him you don’t haveenough.

We are eternal souls passing through a temporary life here on earth. We often getit exactly backwards. We think this is our home and we want our heaven here. Nowonder we muse over why this life doesn’t seem to be working. Sometimeswe see the spiritual life as optional and this life as the “realworld.” If we think that way natural disasters and the kind ofstuff I’ve described here doesn’t make much sense. But if weunderstand that everyone dies, it is simply a matter of how and when, andeternity is eternal reward then we have nothing to fear.

The real deal is to use our time and space here to get to know our Creatorpersonally. He wants that and is already reaching out in a million ways. Ittakes humility to admit we need Him but events like this past week remind us wecan’t do life on our own. We are made for eternity and we are justpassing through. We are made right with Him not by what we do but byaccepting what He’s already done for us. Confess your sin, turn fromdoing things only your way and invite Him to lead you in a loving relationship.That’s what makes life sweet. Make the most of it while you are here andget to know Jesus because when you do you will have grace and peace. You canlive with confidence and trust no matter what comes your way.

Gary Kendall