Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
I’ve heard some say of a house left standing after a tornado or hurricane that God must have spared the structure’s owner from material loss because of their righteousness. But, unfortunately, such statements imply that the neighboring destroyed property belonged to the unrighteous. Yet Jesus said, “for He (God) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5.45, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated).
Even amongst the destruction, though, if someone is observant enough, he sees what he chooses to call miraculous. However, since a miracle is the suspension of God’s natural laws, we understand that the word “miracle” oft becomes an adjective to describe what defies human comprehension. In reality, laws of nature explain the “skipped” houses or why a decorated Christmas tree can remain amidst a room, missing its walls and a part of its ceiling.
For example, there can be what scientists call “suction vortices” within tornadoes. Within a more significant tornado, these many vortices move in a looping, cycloid pattern that will hit some things while completely missing others.1 In other words, the hand of God was in the creation of the natural laws resulting in the occasional formation of tornadoes, with their suction vortices, as opposed to directing storms into particular locations.
But did God originally intend for His natural laws to include such destructive phenomena? Think back to the world God initially created. God called it “very good” (Genesis 1.31). What changed? Humanity used its free moral agency to sin, bringing change to the world. In fact, things got so bad that God destroyed the original world. Peter says, “…by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3.5-6).
Among those mechanisms that God put into place in the world emerging from the flood are the weather patterns that spawn tornadoes and hurricanes. The patient patriarch, Job, observed the following regarding the wisdom known to God: “…He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure…He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt…He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out” (Job 28.25-27).
Now, the point of our devotional today is not to increase the misery of those having suffered loss during what insurance companies euphemistically call “acts of God.” Yes, things like tornadoes and hurricanes do arise because of sin. However, it is not a part of the chastisement God sends upon us (cf. Hebrews 12.4ff). So, if you want to see God after a tornado, do not see it in a church building with no roof, but with all its hymnals and pew Bibles still safely secured in the pew racks. That is likely but a side effect of natural law.
No, look for God in His grace. As Fred Rogers often said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”2 Might I suggest that it is in the helpers that we see the actual hand of God? His Providence works through the people clearing debris, handing out food, and providing shelter to those who have lost everything. These fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6.2). Thus, God does not only shelter some in a storm. He provides for all of the weary through the agency of those whom He made in His image (Genesis 1.26-27).
Sources Consulted and Cited
1 Seman, Steven, et al. “Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths.” Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths | METEO 3: Introductory Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo3/l9_p8.html.
2 Rogers, Fred. “A Quote by Fred Rogers.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/198594-when-i-was-a-boy-and-i-would-see-scary.