Early this morning I was sitting comfortably at my kitchen table enjoying a mug of freshly brewed coffee and a warm cinnamon roll when suddenly it “dawned” on me that some folks today don’t have a chair to sit on or even a house to put a chair in to sit on. Last night, unusually powerful storms with killer tornadoes ripped through five Southern and Midwestern states leaving a trail of miles-long destruction behind in their wake. First responders describe the damage around Little Rock, Arkansas as “catastrophic.” The videos of black, swirling monster funnels sucking up debris at 150 miles an hour are ugly and frightening.
Today hundreds of victims of Springtime severe weather’s latest wild rampage are trying to pick up the pieces, and worst of all, some are grieving the loss of loved ones. The trauma of such a tragedy as this will go on for a long while. In the aftermath, I’m sure that many folks affected are asking the question “Why?”
Meteorologists can explain the “how” of such an outbreak. The jet stream, low pressure centers, Gulf moisture. Natural elements all came together for the perfect storm — perfectly wicked. Climate change activists as usual will chime in with their “woe is the world” lament and blame all of us for our selfish use of gas-powered lawn mowers. The truth is more likely that it can be attributed to the fact that we live on a very dynamic planet. Tectonic plates shift. Hurricanes form. Ice ages come and go. Some things are just plain out of our control, and we don’t like it, especially when it interrupts the peace and normalcy of our everyday lives. I don’t like flat tires or tornadoes. But they happen.
Why terrible things happen to some while others seem to escape at least for the moment is an age-old mystery. Is it serendipitous? Am I blessed and others not? Who can we blame? God? The devil? Theologians and philosophers have dealt with this issue in countless volumes for centuries, with little in the way of conclusions, except that maybe in a fallen world, the human experience – good or bad — is what it is.
The Storm Prediction Center experts are expecting another outbreak in the very same geographic areas this coming Tuesday. Someone once said “Hope for the best. Be prepared for the worst.” I guess that’s practical advice, especially for circumstances beyond our control. But for me, rather than fall into a resignation of fatalism, I will instead remember my personal consolation for a future unknown is found in Psalm 46:
“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.”
If the “why” question intrigues you intellectually, may I suggest C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. It’s an excellent study on how suffering can actually lead us away from anxiety and doubt to life altering hope and faith.