Over the past week, we have witnessed the devastating effects of thunderstorms and tornadoes. This morning, our hearts are breaking for the people in Moore, Oklahoma who are suffering unimaginable loss. We mourn for those who have lost children, lost their homes, and lost their hope. Even while we pray for them today, we also wonder what this afternoon might hold for us living in North Texas with the threat of similar storms looming in the forecast.
Many of us are living in fear of the natural, physical, and economic disasters looming ahead. In the Bible, we are told that disasters are ultimately from God, but He does nothing without an infinitely wise and good purpose. “He also is wise and will bring disaster” (Isaiah 31:2).
The temptation we all face when such tragedy strikes, however, is to question God’s goodness. Why would a good and loving God allow this? In fact, the temptation to mistrust God’s goodness was behind the first temptation in Eden (Genesis 3:1-7), and it’s somewhere in the rationale behind every fear we have and every sin we commit. After all, if God isn’t good – not just at a theological level, but in real, practical storms of life – then we have to take matters into our own hands. We have to strive for our own security or arrange for our own future because He may not protect us or provide for us, at least not in the way we expect Him to. And if God cannot be trusted in disasters, we start to wonder if He can be trusted with any of our heart’s desires.
Whenever we question God’s goodness, there’s a lie somewhere in our thinking. “If God really cared, if God was really loving, He would not allow tornadoes and similar disasters to cause so much loss of property and especially, life.” But God is good, and He longs to be generous. His Word confirms this truth that we must apply to our hearts and minds: “The LORD is good” (Psalm 100:5) and “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1). In His wisdom, He is working sovereignly to reveal His goodness and love in more ways than you and I can see.
God has good and all-wise purposes – even for the heart-rending tragedies that are both public and private. He has good purposes for all things in life (Romans 8:28), most of which will remain hidden to us until we are able to grasp them at the end of the age. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?”(Romans 11:33-34). “The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Here are a few possible purposes for tornadoes and similar disasters revealed in the Bible:
- Disasters are God’s patient calls to repentance. “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
- God’s unilateral taking of human life is a loud declaration that He is sovereign over all of His Creation. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away” (Job 1:21). The message for all the world is that life is more than our physical possessions — life is a gift from God (Luke 12:20) and belongs to Him. He creates it and gives it and takes it according to His own will and owes us nothing. He has a right to children (2 Samuel 12:13-18) and to the aged (Luke 2:29). It is a great gift to learn this truth and dedicate our lives to our Creator and Savior rather than ignore Him till it is too late.
- The power demonstrated through tornadoes reveals the fearful magnificence of God. This is a helpful perspective since “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 15:33 ). Natural disasters and the suffering that follows either pushes us away from God or pulls us toward Him. A fear of storms or loss of life can lead to a healthy fear of God involving worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect.
When the storms of this world and the storms of this life knock the wind out of us, there is a dramatic sense that there is no place to run and no place to hide. So where do we go when the earth itself is unsafe? God Himself.
As we pray for the victims, their families, and the community of Moore, Oklahoma today, let’s pray they discover that “God is our refuge and strength, a Helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with its turmoil” (Psalm 46:1–3). Let’s pray they find that, “the LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love. The LORD is good to everyone; His compassion rests on all He has made” (Ps. 145:8-9). Let’s pray for the God of all comfort to comfort them in all their affliction (2 Cor. 1:3-4).