It has been an interesting year so far, and it’s only January 11! I’m sure most anyone who reads this blog has heard about the storms that raced through the Midwest this past week, and just recently through Mississippi and other eastern states. When the storms came through the Springfield, Missouri, area, I was skeptical at first. I’m becoming a true “Show-Me” Missourian–I’ll believe there’s a tornado when I see it! It wasn’t until the weathercaster drew a line straight through my neighborhood, identifying the storm’s path, that we retreated to the basement to sit among the boxes of not-yet-discarded but set-aside parts of our lives.
Things. We all have them, and most of us have too many of them. As we grew busier, we had less time to go through our things and just started putting them in boxes in the basement. Then, when my father-in-law passed away, all of his things joined ours down there. When a pipe broke, spewing all the discharged water from our dishwasher into the basement, I filled quite a few boxes with destroyed “things” that I didn’t even know were there, along with some I know I will miss.
As the tornadoes tracked through Missouri, around our neighborhood and on into a town called Strafford, an elderly woman lay asleep in her bedroom. Eighty-four years old and known as a woman of faith, she probably didn’t even know the tornado was coming. Right in the path of the storm, her home was destroyed. When the rescuers pulled her from the wreckage she was unconscious from a head injury and later died at a local hospital.
How do we explain this tragedy? She was a quilting friend, a grandmother and mother, a solid church member, and a joyful Christian. We would expect God to protect her, to hide her in His hands in the midst of the storm, and to bring her through victoriously. Yet in the midst of the storm God performed a different miracle, one we did not expect. God called His beloved home in the storm, using a tragedy to carry her to glory.
Her loss will reverberate throughout the community. However, I was struck by a new report the following day quoting a family member. A local reported stated, “She was a loving woman who believed in God. She had a long, happy life and wanted to die quickly when it was her time.” What a different way to look at things. Of course, they are mourning and will miss her desperately, and yet she entered into her rest as she wanted–quickly, although she could never have foreseen the agent that took her there.
Another victim of the storm, having lost everything to the storm, attested on a news report, “They’re just things. I have my family and my faith, and that’s what
God spoke through Isaiah to the nation of Israel saying, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'” (55:8, 9). The context of the passage was calling Israel to repentance and to dependence on their God, assuring them that God would be with them and reward them for their faithfulness, and in any circumstance, would provide for them every “thing” they needed.
Sitting in the basement looking at all the “things” down there, I couldn’t help but think about my own response to God’s call. What was I relying upon for my security? Was I instead looking upward for my guidance and supply?
In Israel’s case the agent of change may not have been a tornado, but rather a marauding army, a famine, or multiple other disasters. God’s way of calling us to Him and back to faith. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” [emphasis mine].
The things in our lives are tools God uses for our good, whether, as in the case of the tornado, those things seem good or bad to our way of thinking.
At the end of the newscast, the woman’s grandson showed everyone the glass praying hands figurine that was found in one piece within the rubble, a testimony from his grandmother that God was with him and that in spite of the troubles in our lives, God is able to bring us through.
May God richly bless you today with this thought: When you are tempted to hold on to the things of this life, remember that God wants to use each of them to bring you closer to God. Choose faith.
3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”
6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.