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Faith in the Storms

Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on

The one year anniversary of the Moore tornado (EF-5) has been an emotional week for many. This one day will be etched forever in the minds of those who suffered it. In retrospect, however, the 2013 Moore tornado was the devastating focal point of a 2 week period of storms and tornados unlike anything most of us had ever seen. Beginning on May 18 with a tornado forming over Norman and wrecking destruction on a path toward Shawnee (EF-4) and ending on May 31 with the “widest tornado in recorded history” near El Reno (EF-5), it seemed that every day brought the fear of new storms. The weather was violent. It was frightening. We came to know our weathermen and storm chasers by name. On many occasions their advice to flee or take cover meant the difference between life and death.

Our community continues to grieve the loss of loved ones, homes, property, and our sense of well-being as a result of those storms. Folks from around the nation and world have reached out to us. Their presence brought strength, hope, and resources. We have experienced the healing power of charity and community. We have risen from the rubble to rebuild. And, while we will always carry the scars, we are healing and putting our lives and families back together.

Just as physical and emotional healing is necessary, so too is spiritual healing. In times like these many ask the question, “Where was God?” Of course, the underlying question is how an all-powerful, all-loving God could idly sit by and watch violent storms take the lives of innocent children and adults. Theologians call this the question of “theodicy.” It’s the same question that Job asked when he lost everything, including his ten children through a great wind. It’s the same question we ask when we see suffering and evil. Our question carries with it our unique worldview and theological assumptions. Some conclude that there is no God, while others conclude that not only is there a God, but that He wills and causes all of these things in His Sovereignty. Neither answer satisfies most of us!

So, how do we find healing? We begin by acknowledging that there are some things that we cannot understand or know this side of eternity. This creates an ongoing tension between faith and doubt. When the storms come, faith and doubt confront us. The pathway of doubt ultimately spirals downward into despair and hopelessness. The pathway of faith opens the opportunity for hope and new beginnings. In faith we can accept the testimony of scripture that God is loving, good, and faithful and that these characteristics do not contradict His justice and holiness. The scriptures also speak of evil, personified as a “thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” Much of what God is blamed for today is in reality the work of this thief. Romans 8 offers additional insight as it speaks of the ongoing futility or chaos that exists within the created order. I wonder if tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis and other “acts of God” are better understood with this perspective. A final thought from creation is the nature in which we are created. We are created with an ability to choose and make decisions. God has left so much to us. In Deuteronomy, God invites us to choose between life and death, good and evil. The ability to choose sets us apart from the rest of creation. And of course, our decisions impact the lives of others for good and bad.

With these things in mind, we turn to the theodicy question again. It seems that in His Sovereignty, God allows all of these things to co-exist in this world. Good, evil, chaos, and our ability to choose between life and death come together in ways that are at times beautiful and at times horrific. Yet, the promise of God (by faith) is that He is present with us, He loves us, and He is always at work to bring about good, no matter how bad things may be.

One year after the storms God continues to heal and bring about good from a terrible season of chaos. For this we give thanks. And for this, our faith is strengthened.