Storms: A Reflection on Suffering

“The Lord has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” – Nahum 1:3 (NKJV)

tornado weatherFive waves of tornadoes passed through my county three years ago, killing nine. My mother knew one of the victims. A former schoolteacher and her family were injured. My uncle lives a few miles from where one tornado hit. Some debris ended up in his yard. Another tornado passed less than one hundred yards from a former pastor’s home. He, his family, and his house were spared, but some of his neighbors were not.

Oddly, no part of the county was spared. Tornadoes hit some places expectedly because of the terrain. Yet one road that I use often closed for repairs – downed power lines and trees, damaged homes. I saw similar damage near my house; I also looked at photos and videos of the devastation. Tornadoes even affected our visit to a nearby art museum, which closed because it had no electricity. The Internet felt like ground zero: lists of missing persons, items blown into yards, places to find help, and ways to help others.

Suffering – storms, persecution, poverty, pain, sickness, death, etc – is painful. But without it, we remain spiritually shallow. Through suffering, God burns up dross in our souls in order to perfect us and produce praise in us. The highest praise comes from a wounded heart that God has made, or is making, whole. Everything we think, say, and do should be an act of worship. Otherwise it is dross that must be removed through the fire of suffering.

But God will not abandon us in our pain. He has promised us that when we walk through water and fire, he will be with us (Isaiah 43:2). God was in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3). He has placed treasures in the darkness and we must find them (Isaiah 45:3). So let us embrace suffering as God’s will for us, not shun it. I wish more people boasted about God’s bringing them through storms than His providence. Healing and compassion flow from wounds. As Jesus’ wounds heal us, so ours heal others. We can also empathize with others in their pain and teach them to see God in their storms. Scars from suffering are badges of honor, not shame. How can we look Jesus in the face without suffering for him? Jesus has scars in his hands for us. Do we have scars in our hands and hearts for him?

elijah wind earthquakeThere is another purpose to suffering. Elijah ran from Jezebel to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19). He saw wind, earthquake, and fire before hearing God’s still, small voice. Only later did Elijah pass his mantle to Elisha (2 Kings 2). We also experience wind, earthquake, and fire. Then we hear the still, small voice of God. Eventually, the older generation will pass its mantle to the younger (Malachi 4:5-6). God is shaking us in order to make us.

Still, God was in the whirlwind that Ezekiel saw (1-2). The prophet had a fiery vision of Jesus Christ and four living creatures that followed God wherever he went. This portrait is of life in the Spirit, of obedience and Christ-likeness. Have we found Jesus in the whirlwind? As with tornadoes and hurricanes, the middle is still. Here we can find peace, quietness, and rest – Jesus. He is preparing us for life in the Spirit and for revival.

There is peace in the midst of the storm-tossed life
There is an Anchor, there is a rock to build my faith upon
Jesus Christ is my vessel so I fear no alarm
He gives me peace in the midst of the storm

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