An opinion piece in yesterday’s Dispatch, a newspaper that covers the region around Starksville, Mississippi, stated: “It’s the most devastating tornado storm in history. More tornadoes were spawned on April 27 than any other single day, ever. More than 200 tornadoes ravaged the earth as the storm moved across the South, including the EF-5 tornado, with its 205-mph winds, that devastated the town of Smithville. That tornado, by the way, was the largest ever recorded in Mississippi.”
The article went on to say that the death toll is currently more than 330 nationwide, including other states in Tornado Alley that experienced devastating storms. Checking on tornado watch blogs, the predominant question has been, does anything good come from a tornado?
Most respondents stated an emphatic No, nothing good comes out of these violent storms. Some said there was a raw beauty to this force of nature. A few said tornadoes, like other natural disasters, bring people together. The Dispatch story ended in this vein, boasting that while Mississippi is considered the poorest state in the nation, it “leads every other state in charitable giving.”
According to physicist Hugh Ross (founder of Reasons to Believe) and the National Weather Service, tornadoes help release pent up energy in the earth and its atmosphere. Our home planet is much more dynamic than scientists yet understand…not just the ball of rock it appears on the surface. Speculation is if we didn’t have a ‘few’ tornadoes, the ensuing storms would be even more enormous and much more destructive. With no way to imagine this alternative, it’s hardly comforting, especially to those who have lost homes and loved ones.
What about from an eternal perspective? C.S. Lewis, Joni Eareckson-Tada, Randy Alcorn, and other Christian thinkers who have considered the role of suffering may hold an unpopular view, but Biblical nonetheless. Suffering a personal tragedy tends to turn people’s attention heavenward. It forces us to think beyond the temporal and consider what, if anything, is more important than the immediate lives we are living.
Imagine the wealthiest man in the world. He needs and wants for nothing. His wife and children scratch their heads every time his birthday rolls around. (Diamond-encrusted gold bobble cuff links, perhaps?) He can afford to be philanthropic…what’s dropping a few hundred-thousand, even a million here or there, when you have billions of dollars in reserve? If a tornado were to wipe out his mansion, he may be deeply saddened by the loss of a few priceless antiques, but he can afford to rebuild and restock. He gives no thought to his soul and, quite literally, sees no need for God.
But what if his beloved wife dies in the storm? The love and light of his life? Now, perhaps, God – who has been knocking on the door of his heart for some time – has his attention. God didn’t necessarily cause his wife’s death. Tragedy is blind, and no respecter of persons. But God can use his wife’s death to bring about a change in the man that otherwise would have been impossible.
This is a hypothetical situation to illustrate an idea. There are plenty of wealthy individuals with a deep, abiding faith in the Lord. The point is, what does it take to turn our eyes heavenward? Sometimes, God knows, it takes a personal tragedy. Thank goodness, He is ever waiting in the wings to catch us when we fall, and tend to our brokenness.