Tornadoes continue to be in the news. Two headlines screamed from the printed version of the Des Moines Register two weeks ago, after a huge swath of tornadoes devastated the town of Mapleton and surrounding area, without a soul being killed. One gave credit to “being lucky”, the other cited “somebody” looking out for the townsfolk during the twister. Monona County Sheriff was able to give credit to both in one sentence: “I believe in the good Lord, and he saved this town,” Pratt said. “We were very lucky.” Pratt also rightly gave glory to the grace of God: “Last night we thought we’d be dealing with at least a dozen deaths,” Pratt said. “It must have been our advanced warning and the grace of God….”
Dr. Wendy Wright , professor of theology at Creighton University in Omaha, wants us to make sure that God is not really given full credit, because then he would get demerits if the awful had happened: “I would not go so far as to say God plans every dot and tittle because then you have the problem of … seven people died in a trailer park. Did God do that, too?”
Another survivor from the recent St Louis tornadoes opined: “”I like to think it was divine intervention, but why was one church damaged and another one spared?” said Michele Bauer, 42, whose niece attends a Catholic school.”
I think Wright is as theologically confused as the Sheriff’s statements seem to be. However, he was just expressing thoughts from his heart and probably not attempting to be precise. She should know better. Luck is random. Chance has no meaning. If they are the causes of tornadoes, then they should get the glory both for the good and the evil that befalls man. Thanking God for sparing you is the right thing to do, because he controls these things. To give thanks when you don’t believe he rules over all weather is silliness. The other alternative, I suppose, is that God leaves somebody else in charge (the devil?) and only intervenes at certain times. But that simply puts off the question. If God could stop a tornado from killing 24 people in North Carolina, why didn’t He? I don’t have the answer to that question (see Deut 29:29). But not having the answer to the mystery of providence does not mean I should reject the plain teaching of Scripture that these things all fall out by design by God. And that they can’t happen unless all things are in His control.
Most people reject the notion that God sends tornadoes or other bad things, especially pertaining to weather. But the people would be wrong. There are scores of passages in Scripture that declare the very thing.
Psalm 107 speaks plainly:
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that [men] would praise the LORD [for] his goodness, and [for] his wonderful works to the children of men!
If we deny that God rules the winds this way, then we deny our Savior, the Lord Jesus. For the Bible also says that Jesus calmed the storm with his voice. The purpose of this was to show that he was no ordinary man, but was God with them in the flesh:
Matthew 4 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
There are scores of other passages that affirm that God directs the “stormy wind fulfilling his word” and other physical elements of the world (Psalm 148). This should be of great comfort to God’s people. Who would you rather discipline you or be in charge of what happens to you? Your loving father, or the enemy that wants to destroy you?
Genesis 8:1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that [was] with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged;
Isaiah 29:6 Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.”
Nahum 1:3 The LORD [is] slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
Psalm 135:6,7 Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.
I am not suggesting we can know God’s purpose for any particular storm. Whether or not people are killed, it certainly doesn’t tell us anything about those particularly effected. Both the sun and the rain fall on the just and the unjust. Our response ought to be thankfulness for being spared. We should give glory to God when we see God’s hand at work in nature. We should never deny God’s sovereignty.
David is currently an adjunct instructor of Composition and Speech at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. His wife and he have also owned a business selling antique and collectible postcards on eBay since 1999. David was an activist with Operation Rescue in the early 1990s. He is a member of Trinity Presbyterian Reformed Church in Johnston, Iowa.
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