Praying, Preparing, and Being Assured When the Storms Come

Posted: March 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

**updates in italics

The reports continue to come in from yesterday’s tornadoes and storm activity leaving a path of death and destruction across 10 state. It is likely that the death toll will continue to rise throughout the weekend as searches pick through debris for survivors. These early March storms have put millions of people at risk and currently have killed at least 38 people in eight states. USA Today has created an interactive map to show the devastation across the mid-west and south. The NOAA also provided a map displaying storm warnings for the entire week across the US.

The pictures and stories of the destruction will grip our hearts. I was particularly grieved as I saw the devastation that ripped through Henryville, Indiana. Henryville is just a few miles north of Louisville, KY; across the Ohio River in Clark County. When our family lived in Louisville we did much of our shopping in Clark County and I went to Henryville numerous times. The warm memories of the quaint town of 2000 that I often interacted with while going to take hikes or prayer retreats in Clark State Forest are now somewhat overshadowed with the damage from the tornado and images like this one of the school bus below.

A school bus that's body was ripped away from the chassis sticks out of a structure in Henrysville, after being pushed into it during the previous evening's tornado damage in southern Indiana, Saturday, March 03, 2012. Photo by Robert Scheer / The Star from WTHR Chopper 13

As I was tracking the storm’s impact on the internet, messages came through about the former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Dean of Students, Lawrence Smith (now a reporter for the Fox affiliate), just avoiding becoming one of the fatalities in Henryville. Lawrence, had an office just around the corner from mine when I worked at SBTS and I got to know him in my time there and am grateful (along with his other friends and family) his close call was only that. He shared the “close-call” experience here (along with raw footage of the tornado).

Whether we have a personal connection with the storm victims or location, as Christians we should move to action in response to the storms. We must pray for these victims’ families and the towns that were damaged. It should also lead us to prepare as we enter what experts are saying should be a busy storm season. It looks like the mild winter is over and unpredictable storms have come full force. Yesterday, the weather service had issued 269 tornado warnings by 10 p.m. Only 189 warnings were issued in all of February. The Weather Channel has developed a helpful list to to have a disaster supply kit on-hand. I am grateful how our Southern Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief teams are quick to respond and offer physical hope as well as the life-changing hope of the gospel. Consider donating to them, praying for them, or even being trained to be one. All the information you need to do that is here: http://www.namb.net/dr/

Beyond some of this practical and important steps to take after a disaster we often will ask questions on a deeper level: why do they happen, did God send them, or why did God let the tornado hit a town of such “good” people? We should be prepared to answer these for ourselves and others. The reason is we never know when tragedies, disasters, or sufferings will come our way. In our fallen world we will all have to face the difficult realities at some point of:

  • a natural disaster
  •  physical sufferings/diseases (massive heart-attack, cancer, etc.)
  • an untimely death of a loved one
  •  accidents that leave devastating consequences, or
  •  children who suffer from birth defects or serious diseases.

The list could go on. While many of us have been impacted by one of these difficulties in the past we could testify of the need to have a good foundation of God’s truth and knowledge of Him when the storms of life come (literal or physical).

As you pray for the tragedies of the recent storms consider preparing in the ways listed above and knowing how to respond to the “why” questions. I want to give you some resources to help do this. One is a sermon I preached at Oak Grove after the sudden death of one of our members. It was on Luke 13:1-9 on what we should learn in sufferings and tragedies.

The most important thing for Christians facing any type of suffering is to cling to the sovereignty of God. John Piper has again helped us in taking a look at this vital doctrine with his recent article titled: Fierce Tornadoes and the Finger of God.  A great book to help do us practically trust in the sovereignty of God is by Jerry Bridges called “Trusting God Even When Life Hurts.” Here are some quotes from it:

“The insurance companies refer to major natural disasters as “acts of God.” The truth is, all expressions of nature, all occurrences of weather, whether it be a devastating tornado or a gentle rain on a spring day, are acts of God. The Bible teaches that God controls all the forces of nature, both destructive and productive, on a continuous, moment-by-moment basis”

“Complaining about the weather seems to be a favorite American pastime. Sadly, we Christians often get caught up in this ungodly habit in our society. But when we complain about the weather, we are actually complaining against God who sent us our weather. We are, in fact, sinning against God (see Numbers 11:1).”  –Trusting God, 1988, p. 96., NavPress – www.navpress.com, All rights reserved.

Finally, I have posted below the the helpful article by pastor and author, Jim Elliff,  called “Do Hurricanes Just Happen?” (or in this weekend’s case insert “tornado” for “hurricane”). I hope this article below and the insight above will help you to pray and prepare (physically & spiritually) for whatever storms the Lord brings our way.

Do Hurricanes Just Happen?

Though some postulate that hurricanes are spawned merely by natural causes, this answer is one “cause” too short. The Bible teaches they are first decreed by God.

The Psalmist wrote: “Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightening for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries” (Psalm 135:6-7).

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed?” asked Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:38.

A hurricane is definitely in the “woe” category. Such physical catastrophes are often called “natural evils,” and they come by that misnomer honestly. What devastation! We are moved by the plight of those who have endured this kind of trouble.

But can we really say God did it? Most do not want to. Yet, occasionally, even among those who assume God exercises no true

sovereignty over the wills of men, there is the admission that God does control the weather. He does, that is, as long as nobody is seriously hurt. God might comfort during the storm and help pick up the emotional pieces after the storm, but He would never create such ruination.

However, God’s own Word speaks otherwise: God is at work doing His perfect will, even during hurricane season. These spinning engines of destruction originate from Him as Ruler (first cause), through nature (second cause), all for His purposes. Though God owes us no explanation, one or all of the following possible objectives may help us understand “why” God decrees such fear-producing events:

1. God is recognized as powerful and not to be trifled with. God often asserted that cataclysmic events were done to display His power to men. (Exodus 9:14-16; 14:31)

2. Society is warned of the greatest calamity, eternal judgment. A physical disaster is nothing compared with eternal damnation. A hurricane is an announcement: “If you don’t repent, worse than this is coming.” (Luke 13:1-5)

3. Some people are deservedly punished for their rebellion. The Bible states that “the wrath of God is revealed [lit. is being revealed] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men . . .” (Romans 1:18). That means now. Hurricanes are just one of the ways that might happen. (Psalm 7:11-13)

4. Some true believers are tested or disciplined and made stronger in their faith. The same storm that judges a non-believing man may be the crucible of testing and/or chastisement for a true Christian, and will toughen and purify him for the future. (James 1:2-3; Hebrews 12:5-11)

5. Believers may be taken to heaven; and some enemies of God may be removed from the earth. This is a reality that is hard to accept, but nonetheless true. The Bible says that our days are ordained by God even before one of them is lived (Psalm 139:16). He also promises that many rebellious people will face a calamitous end. (Psalm 73:18-19)

6. The godly are given an opportunity to love sacrificially. Because of the nature of the true believer, you will always find Christians among those on the scene helping to relieve the distress. (1 John 3:17; Galatians 6:10) Their love may point many to Christ.

There could be more, but this will suffice to highlight the purposefulness of God in such massive displays of his power.

If it is not true that God has ordained the powerful forces of nature for His own ends, then the alternative answer is that this event was only an irregularity in the interplay of warm water and thermals. And that is no comfort when you stand in the wet rubble that was once your home.

I would much rather know that God has a purpose in mind when it costs me so dearly. I can learn from that, and even thank Him for His perfect, though sometimes shocking, will. God knows what He’s about.

“He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'” (Daniel 4:35).

Copyright © 2004 Jim Elliff
Christian Communicators Worldwide, Inc.
www.CCWtoday.org
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