Originally published Tuesday, 21 May 2013.
Yesterday afternoon, a two-mile wide tornado ripped through the town of Moore, Oklahoma. When the dark storm passed, much of the town was leveled, destroyed, gone. It tore buildings into pieces, twisted cars until they were unrecognizable, and mangled an elementary school. In the wake, at least 24 souls passed away; many were children.
In such times of tragedy, our temptation is to beat our breast and tear our clothes like the mourning men we read of in the pages of the Bible. “Why God?” we want to know. News reports are quick to cover every shadowy detail, exposing every inch of pain and devastation. Among the reports, I crossed paths with a video of a man leaving his storm shelter after the horrific storm passed. You hear him clamor as he opens the door. Darkness gives way to light as he opens the cellar door to expose the ruins that once were his home.
In what I assume is shock, he pans the camera around in a full circle. Every direction reveals brokenness. Nothing stands. No frame of a house, no remaining bricks where a fireplace used to stand, no furniture, no proof of the life he lived hours before. Gone. His response? “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” The one phrase the man utters upon the news of his home being whisked away is words from Job 1:21. After this, the camera clicks off.
The rest of the verse says, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I don’t know if this is where the camera man’s heart was resting, or if he was just expressing his emotion with a common phrase he’s heard over the years. But what I hope, is that he and all the others affected by the storms in Oklahoma, and everyone watching in horror on the other side of the news reports, remembers not only the words of Job 1:21, but also the words of Psalm 105:25-27:
“Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.” (Psalm 102:25-27, ESV)
These storms remind us of a very real and tangible truth we often forget; everything we have here on earth will perish but God will remain. And so instead of longing for the things of this world, those that wear out like a garment, or are caught up in the rushing winds, we are to long for a different inheritance; one that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us who are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:4-5).
In this you rejoice.
“…though now for a little while, if necessary you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9
Yes, we are to mourn with those who mourn and grieve with those who grieve, and today it is right for there to be much fellowship in mourning and grieving. But there should also be a reminder – today is the little while; we are being grieved by various trials. But we are not among those who grieve without hope. If we hold fast to our confession; that Christ Jesus is making all things new through his death and resurrection, forgiving our sins and reconciling us with God for eternity, then we can cling to our confession. He who promised, is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).
This is a promise that cannot be torn away.
But, if you are unsure of the reliability of this promise, let this be a different reminder. Is your life bound in the movable, easily consumed by the storms of this life? If there is a shadow of doubt in your heart, may these storms lead you to open the cellar doors of your life and survey what remains.
“We must not rest without a desperate struggle to clasp the Savior in the arms of faith and say, ‘I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.’ Do not rest, believer, until you have a full assurance of your interest in Jesus. Let nothing satisfy you until, by the infallible witness of the Holy Spirit bearing witness with your spirit, you are identified as a child of God.” – Charles H. Spurgeon
In the wake of today’s storms, take a few moments to take stock of your own life outside the cellar. What would remain? Would you have hope?
“…We who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:18-20
Today I am thankful I have a foundation that cannot be shaken. Blessed be the name of the Lord.