Amazing. Incredible. Captivating. Those words don’t begin to describe the scene yesterday afternoon when I turned on Fox News and saw the powerful Tornado moving across the Oklahoma plains. I was watching it live as it was filmed from a helicopter. You could see flashes of light from the distance as it evidently took down power-lines. But it was coming across open land. Maybe it would lift up. Dissipate. Move on. And not strike a populated area.
I watched for a while, and then went to my office to write today’s post (which will have to wait until tomorrow.) When I finished and returned to the TV, everything had changed. It had directly hit the town of Moore, a Oklahoma City suburb.
The camera from the chopper showed the damage. The destruction. The devastation. Homes were laying in ruins. Just piles of blocks and wood. Sub-divisions were leveled. Cars and trucks lay in crumpled heaps. And an elementary school took a direct hit while teachers and students were huddled inside.
I had to eat supper and leave for a meeting, when I returned, there was more bad news. Many were injured. 51 died. At least 20 were children. This morning the death toll may go higher. Sadly, many may be children from the school.
Catastrophic events like these touch our hearts, but also provide some important life lessons and insights.
(1) Life is uncertain. The horrific scenes that flash on our television screens remind us of the uncertainly of life. One minute all is well. There is peace. Calm. Business as usual. Then there is a warning. A watch. A siren. And in a few minutes life for an entire town, and many families is changed forever. The Bible warns us of being overconfident about our plans.
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (Jas. 4:13-15, NIV)
(2) Life is fragile. Our strength is no match for nature’s powerful forces. Neither our are buildings. Bridges. Homes. Or schools. We are finite creatures. Mortal. The Psalmist realized this when he wrote, “Lord, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am.” (Ps 39:4).
(3) Life is filled with suffering. The Patriarch Job observed what our experience reminds us is so. “Man, who is born of woman, Is short-lived and full of turmoil” (Job 14:1). We live in a natural world. A fallen world. A world filled with pain. Problems. And hurt. It’s not heaven. We are reminded in times like this that there is a better place. A safe haven. A happier home. A heavenly mansion prepared for us by our Savior (Jn. 14:1)
(4) I need to remember “who” instead of worrying about “why.” Heart-breaking catastrophes like this leave us asking, “Why?” I have responded to past natural disasters of hurricanes, tsunamis, or floods with my best answers. And I think there are some Biblical answers to that question.
But for now, we need to remember “who.” Who cares for us? Loves us unconditionally? Feels our pain? The answer is our Heavenly Father. He says, “Cast all your care on Me. I care for you” ( IPet 5:7). He promises not to leave or forsake us in times of trouble (Heb. 13:5-6). God is not a spectator in our suffering. He knows our hearts. Feels our hurt. Listens to our cries. And offers help. Hope. And comfort.
(5) Tragic events provide an opportunity to do good. I watched yesterday as scores of volunteers rushed to help those trapped. One man whose house was hit across from the elementary school , gave rescue workers blankets from heaps of rubble that was once his home. He said, “I don’t need them.”
We can pray for those affected. There are opportunities to contribute to charitable organizations that will provide relief. Some will be able to literally lend a helping hand.
May the God of all mercy and comfort fill those with heavy hearts with comfort, consolation and peace.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman