Have you ever lived through a tornado or hurricane? How about an earthquake, blizzard or tsunami? Maybe an extreme drought, windstorm or flood?
No matter where you live, the threat of natural disaster always looms. Most of us go through our lives without great concern for these storms–until one hits close by. These storms are lifechangers. Oldtimers mark their lives by storms: “I remember the Andover tornado of ’91.”
Kansas was recently hit by over 100 tornadoes in one day. One of the largest swept right through my neighborhood, destroying several homes near us and demonstrating its force on our car barn.
As we hunkered down in our basement waiting for the tornado to pass by, we fully expected the tornado to do just that. After all, my family has lived in Kansas for over 40 years and we’ve never had a tornado effect our property. Sure, we know plenty of people who’ve been touched and we’ve served in the aftermath of several major storms. But you can imagine our surprise when we walked out of our house to see the wake of this EF3 tornado in our neighborhood. Several houses lost their roofs, two houses were leveled and a mobile home still rests upside down. 100-year old oaks were leveled, garages are caved in and the piles of debris will take weeks to clear. That’s just our neighborhood where the damage was minor compared to the mobile home park that lost 90 homes.
Overall this storm created more than $140 million in damage in our county.
This isn’t a news column, so why do I give you these details? Because sometimes the reality of a storm can cause us to reevaluate our lives.
5 Benefits of the Gospel found during life’s storms
1. Worship helps us retain perspective
As we waited for the tornado’s arrival, our family prayed and sang worship songs. It was an act of faith–we didn’t feel like worshiping in that moment. Psalm 34:1 says, “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will continually speak his praises.” Intellectually we all know that God is sovereign, even over tornadoes, but it requires faith to sing/speak his praises when a storm is bearing down on you.
One of my daughters exclaimed later that she saw her life go before her eyes (short as it might be at 13). Until the power went out we were gaining comfort from the weather reports showing the storm moving toward other parts of town (of course, we didn’t wish ill on anyone else). We figured we would have plenty of people to help. After the power failed, we had no idea the storm had turned down our street!
One of the songs we clung to was Praise You in the Storm by Casting Crowns:
2. Joy comes in the morning
The news reports in this storm show families who lost most of their possessions, but there is a recurrent theme – praise for personal protection. You see, not one person died in Kansas. That doesn’t always happen, and in fact several people died in Oklahoma from the same storm system, but we all know that family and friends are of infinite value. Homes, cars and possessions can be replaced–people cannot.
So there are many people, including us, offering prayers of thanksgiving for the preservation of life. When we saw the sun rise on Sunday and every person was found, there was tremendous rejoicing.
Dr. Mark Futato was one of my seminary professors. His books on the Psalms have had some of the deepest impact on my life. In his book, Joy Comes in the Morning, he spends an entire chapter showing how the theme of mourning into dancing plays a prominent role in the community of faith. God takes us through storms and then sets our feet to dancing. Sometimes that journey is short and other times it takes many years.
I love how Psalm 34 goes on to say in verses 4-6:
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me
freeing me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
I cried out to the Lord in my suffering, and he heard me.
He set me from all my fears.
God set us free from our fears in that storm. We were comforted by his presence and knowing that our future always lies in His hands.
I’ve recommended this song before, but its worth sharing again. Scott Krippayne understands something of God’s fingers in the middle of storms.
3. Storms cause you to rethink priorities
No one looks for storms and we all hope they pass us by. But when they comes we’re wise to embrace the chance to look at all our priorities. Those who lost everything in this storm have a chance to start rebuilding their lives. Too often we quickly revert to old patterns, but I see the wake of a storm as a chance to ask, “What am I really living for?”
If this storm had been catastrophic how would I evaluate my life to this point? How would God review my life’s efforts? Would he say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”? I hope so, but now is the time to answer that question with an intense freshness. It’s too easy to remain busy without making lasting contributions.
One of my other mentors is Dr. Larry Crabb. His book Shattered Dreams takes a close look at his own reflections on enduring a storm of a different kind – losing his brother prematurely. The way he processes his priorities in the wake of that experience are an instructive pattern for all of us.
Casting Crowns has another song I listen to when thinking of my eternal contribution. If someone wrote a song that summarized the impact of your life, what would they say?
4. Jesus weathered a worse storm
No matter how devastating the storm we endure (and Hurricane Katrina or the recent tsunami in Japan are far worse than this tornado), we must always look to how Jesus faced storms.
First, we know that Jesus spoke and calmed some storms. He is sovereign over nature, but he doesn’t always exert his influence. I wish he would at least preserve human lives, but I think he uses these storms to keep our attention. If life were a constant tropical beach day, we would never see our need for a savior. Storms remind us that we aren’t in control and never know when destruction might arrive.
More importantly, storms remind us that Jesus weathered Satan’s worst storm for our salvation. Facing betrayal, death and his father’s temporary rejection were far worse storms than any of us could endure. Jesus persevered this “perfect storm” for our eternal salvation.
As I inspect the damage of this recent storm, I’m reminded that sin’s wake of destruction is far more devastating. Only because Jesus endured the storm of the cross can I sing, “You Never Let Go” with Matt Redman.
5. Storms bring communities together
We have met numerous neighbors and seen our city stirred by compassion over the last week. I remember friends after Hurricane Katrina relocating to Louisianna to help the victims restore their lives. I’ve been deeply impressed by the sacrificial love shown as outsiders show genuine care for those whose lives lie in shambles.
Sure, there are hucksters and gawkers, but God seems to use storms to bring people together who would otherwise prefer the comfort of anonymity and privacy. Few of us can rebuild after life’s storms without community. How much better to have that community in place before the storms hit!
Sometimes we watch the Weather Channel’s show called Storm Stories. It’s a reminder that destructive storms are happening every year. Someone’s life is being touched by a storm almost every day. How do we respond?
What are your storm stories?