As many of you know, one of the most powerful tornadoes in our nation’s history struck Moore, OK last Monday evening. Some of you may not know that I live in Tulsa, OK – some 90-100 miles NE of Moore. Tornadoes are a “way of life” in Oklahoma; we grow up being told we live in tornado alley, which means there are more tornadoes in this part of the country every year than anywhere else. There is a sense in which you get used to seeing powerfully destructive storms in late Spring and early Summer, but you never get used to the loss of life or the damage they are capable of.
As a person who believes in a sovereign God, I also conclude that God doesn’t waste storms. He doesn’t ever mindlessly send them for His own pleasure and our own fearing. There are always lessons to be learned. God uses even the destruction of a tornado and the pain cause by such an event for God-glorifying purposes.
Today, I wish to share with you 7 lessons that I believe we can gain from such a destructive event like this one. You can apply these lessons to any great tragedy: cancer, a powerful storm, traumatic car wreck, etc.
Lesson #1 – When we need help, we ought to pray and pray persistently.
All throughout the Psalms, we see men praying with urgency when they needed help. The believer is never silent when he needs God to intervene. Desperate times create desperate prayers.
Don’t be afraid of persistence. Never stop praying. Don’t be afraid of repetition. Be diligent. Our perseverance in praying communicates to God that we are patiently waiting upon Him with eagerness.’
Lesson #2 – Be transparent before God when you pray.
Too many people fear transparency in their relationships and especially in their prayers. God wants to us to express our human emotions, doubts, complaints, struggles, etc. He wants us to ask Him “difficult” questions and beg Him to do things a certain way. Being transparent before God is what some have called courage of imperfection. It is a time when we are brazen enough – without sinning – to acknowledge you are not who you want to be and where you want to be.
Lesson #3 – When tragedy strikes, probe your heart for sin.
I would hope this is a natural reaction to any affliction. It may not be your first response, but it should not be delayed. Ask God, “God, search me and know. See if there be any wicked way in me.”
James 5 refers to a time when leaders in the local church gather around a sick individual who is suffering due to his own sin.
Just yesterday, my father was sharing with me of the 40+ references to a whirlwind (i.e. tornado) in the Bible, all of them either are a sign or metaphor for judgment. Some Christians are timid or afraid to ask the question too soon after a hurricane or powerful storm, but we must: “Is God judging here? Is there unconfessed sin in my life?”
Lesson #4 – Every tragedy is temporary.
It never seems like there is a temporary nature to affliction – especially when you’re in the middle of it. But always in hindsight, and certainly in eternity, we will look back and think, “Well, that wasn’t too big of a deal.”
When we contrast God’s eternal nature with our brief sufferings, they seem so trivial or trite.
Tragedies will come and go. They will always pass. They have an end.
Lesson #5 – Practice humility.
In some ways, this is a forced lesson during tragedy, because trials always humble us. “We pray best when we pray in the depths,” Charles Spurgeon once wrote.
Posturing oneself before God as need, unable and insufficient is not only appropriate but sanctifying. When one humbles himself before a God who has no lack who is capable of anything and is sufficient, that man has found the foundation for true holiness during suffering.
Lesson #6 – Our personal tragedies are opportunities to instruct others.
When we are suffering, we don’t look outside ourselves enough. We don’t consider how many “non-sufferers” are watching our reaction, listening to our speech, observing our behavior, etc. We don’t realize how many people are impacted by our growth or lack thereof.
Just like we read the Psalms some 3,000 years later, we are students of those authors who suffered before us. They are our teachers for tragedy.
There may even be a time when our personal sufferings serve no other purpose than to be a lesson or warning for another.
Lesson #7 – God is still in charge.
Chaos, as observed by humans, is still order with God. God never loses a grip on His sovereign reign over His creation. Every moment of suffering and affliction falls under His wise, all-powerful arm.
That is why you never see those saints in the Bible panicking. They know who their God is. They know He is trustworthy.
In conclusion, tragedy is more often than not a medicine for us. It is not a poison. It is meant for our good and maturation. It is meant for His glory.
So when it strikes in your hometown or household next, and it will, open your Bible to the Book of Job and read that opening chapter. Learn from a righteous man who acknowledged God gives and takes, but He remains the same yesterday, today and forever.