My heart is broken as I watch the devastation and heartbreak on TV from what is now being called one of the worst tornadoes in history! I don’t know what it would be like to lose everything I had worked so hard for in just a matter of seconds. Of course, even more heartbreaking would be to lose one’s child in school, not knowing, as you kissed him or her goodbye in the morning, that you would never see them on this earth again! Of course, questions come to my mind: Why did God let this happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Were these people more wicked than others to have such a catastrophe occur in their neighborhood?
I can answer the last question with an emphatic, “Absolutely not!” I lived in Shawnee, Oklahoma, which also suffered severe tornado damage a couple of days earlier, a lovely city located about 30 miles from Moore, the city virtually destroyed in the storm. My late husband and I pastored a church in Shawnee for two years and our youngest daughter was born there. Oklahoma people are by and large God-fearing, salt-of-the earth people and my feeling is if God were choosing somewhere to pour out his wrath, it would not be Oklahoma! Then, you may ask, why do catastrophes like this happen to seemingly good people?
Perhaps the answer can be found in the Word of God! In Job 1:1 God called Job a man who was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God and avoided evil”. Satan asked God if he could destroy Job, a very wealthy man, and God allowed him to bring about evil in his life on several fronts. Verse 19 tells us, “(His) sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead.” (ESV) His oxen used for plowing, camels used for transportation, and servants were also killed. Then Satan struck Job with severe boils over all of his body. Even so, Job 1:22 says that “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (ESV)
We all know the story: In the end God restored back to Job twice as much as he had before, including 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, and 2,000 oxen and donkeys. He also had seven more sons and three more daughters and lived to be 140 years old!
Does God send tornadoes? The short answer is: No! But he allows some tragedies to occur on this earth because we know Satan and his evil presence is alive and well on Planet Earth! Jesus said, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45 (ESV) Jesus also told a gathered crowd, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.“ Matthew 13:3, 4 (ESV) These passages point out that God’s principles and patterns, even regarding the weather, apply across the board, and that many times seemingly innocent people will fall victim to weather-related phenomena. This does not mean these people were more wicked, but rather that because of sin, this world is an imperfect place. Many times God’s hedge of protection is lifted from entire nations who do not put Him first by obeying His laws. It is only because of intercession on the part of godly people that He delays His judgment.
One of my favorite verses is Lamentations 3:22, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.” (KJV) There is a wonderful hymn written from this passage called, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” which I think should be sung in every church! So, in answer to the question, “Does God send tornadoes?”, the answer is “No, but he allows them and other catastrophes and tragedies to take place in our imperfect world.” Someday He will set up His Kingdom, and in that New Earth during the Millennial reign of Christ, there will be no more horrible, violent events, either from the weather or from humans. Satan will be bound for 1,000 years and all will be peaceful. In the meantime, God has chosen to use the tragic events we humans all experience at one time or another to mold and make us into His likeness and bring out the character of Christ in us, if we let Him.
Let me close with a story: We all love the beautiful hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”, but do you know how this hymn came to be written? An evangelist named Horatio Spafford wrote the song in 1873 after he experienced profound tragedy and sorrow in his own life. He was a successful attorney and Presbyterian church elder from Chicago who had a deep faith in God. Although he and his wife, Anna, and five children seemed to have a charmed life and beautiful home on Chicago’s north side, they were severely tested. In 1870 their only son, Horatio, Jr., died of scarlet fever. In October 1871 the “Great Chicago Fire” destroyed their vast real estate holdings near Lake Michigan. Still they trusted God! In 1873, Spafford decided to take his wife and four daughters to Europe to assist the great evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, and his song leader, Ira D. Sankey, who had written many songs. A business emergency kept him from accompanying his family, whom he sent on ahead on a steamer. He planned to join them in Europe a few weeks later. Tragically, on November 22, 1873, the steamer his wife and four daughters were on was struck by a British iron sailing ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. All four of his daughters were killed. Miraculously, his wife, Anna, who had lost consciousness, was picked up by a life boat as she floated in the middle of the ocean. A few days later, Spafford sailed to meet his wife in Europe. As the ship passed the place where his beloved daughters had drowned, he looked out at the sea and through tear-stained eyes, said aloud, “It is well with my soul.” Even though he could scarcely understand it at the time, and perhaps felt like Job of old, he was able to write the song that has gone down in history as one of the most beloved hymns of all time, “It Is Well With My Soul”! By the way, God gave him and his wife three more children.
Do we understand all of life’s tragedies? No! Does God work good through them? Yes! We can stand on Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (ESV) My prayers are with the victims of the Oklahoma tragedy. I know many have already given testimony on national TV of the grace and mercy, as well as their love, of God! May He continue to help them through the days ahead. Let’s all hold them up in prayer!