I’m watching the news tonight as yet another night of tornadoes rips across the southern plains. With devastation two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, AL, two days ago in Joplin, MO, this afternoon in Oklahoma City, and tonight in Dallas, TX — and possibly Joplin again! — homes are destroyed, family members lost or dead, lives changed — forever.
We all watch and cry with the victims. It makes no sense. I just can’t imagine it: one moment you’re sitting at the lying in bed or driving home from work and the next you’re being pulled out of a pile of rubble. Then the questions erupt: What happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? God, what’s going on?
It just so happens (of course, nothing really “just happens”) that I am reading — for the 3rd time — Chuck Swindoll’s book Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance. Job has lost all of his possessions, all his means of income, all his hired help, all the comforts of living well, and then “…another messenger came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead…'” (Job 1:18-19). Many theologians believe the “mighty wind” was a twister. Yes, Job had travelled down the same road where these victims are traveling tonight. And Job responded with worship, without blaming God for any wrongdoing. Amazing.
I’ve read the first chapter of the book of Job a hundred times and it never ceases to amaze me. He lost everything, yet he never blamed God or aske, “Why me?” I might have gotten to the worship — eventually — but I would have probably passed through all the stages of grief first, taking each one very slowly.
Swindoll notes four principles that emerge in this first chapter of Job — four principles that are difficult to understand but nonetheless true. The victims of the tornadoes will probably not want to read these right now. They will eventually, after they grieve. But each one of us could stand being reminded of these — now, before a “tornado of eternal change” strikes our lives.
Principle One: There is an enemy we encounter we cannot see…but he is real. Just because Satan is invisible to the human eye does not mean he is not real. And he is a formidable, relentless foe. He deceives; he accuses; he torments; he tempts; he destroys. Whatever it takes to bring you down, he’ll try it. But remember, dear believers, that greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world. You have power over him.
Principle Two: There are trials we endure we do not deserve, but they are permitted. God is, indeed, sovereign over all the universe and over everything that happens within it. He either causes, prevents, or allows. Which one He chooses is totally His call. Therefore, nothing comes into your life that has not passed through His will. “In the mystery of God’s unfathomable will, we can never explain or fully understand. Do not try to grasp each thread of His profound plan. if you resist my counsel here, you’ll become increasingly more confused, ultimately resentful, and finally bitter. At that point, Satan will have won the day.” Accept what comes; endure it; win the day.
Principle Three: There is a plan we explore we will not understand, but it is best. Though each piece of God’s plan may not seem fair or pleasant, it works toward God’s ultimate purpose and is, therefore, good. Corrie ten Boom once compared God’s plan to a tapestry. We see only the small section that is our life and we view it from the underside. All we see is threads running in all different directions, with knots, tangles, and frayed strings. But God sees the whole tapestry — and from the top where all the threads make a beautiful design. Trust the Designer.
Principle Four: There are consequences we experience we could not anticipate, but they are necessary. Chances are you’re going through something right now that is unfair, something you don’t deserve. Perhaps you’ve complained — or whined — to God, tossing up all kinds of questions to Him. “Trust me here. What has happened is a necessary part of your spiritual growth. Yes, necessary.” For it will shape you and hone you to be who and what God wants you to be — and for a purpose. Be soft clay in the Potter’s hands and let Him have His way.
Tornadoes of eternal change come in many forms and they come to each and every one of us. Though they spring up out of nowhere, they should not surprise us for they are a part of life. Though we may not deserve them, we must endure them. Though we may not understand them, we must realize they have purpose. Though we may want to run as fast and as far away from them as we can, we should embrace them as opportunities to see God work, to grow in His image, and to bring Him glory.
“There is no pit so deep but that He is not deeper still.”
Corrie ten Boom