Dr. Wade Smith
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — We have all been impacted by the devastation of the Moore tornado. Friends and neighbors left with nothing — no homes, no vehicles, no places of work — nothing. All of us grieving the death of children, neighbors and loved ones.
As we grieve, I am reminded that there is a time for everything: Silence, tears, embracing, searching, helping, cleaning and beginning again. Eventually, when the time is right, questioning. How do we make sense of this? Where was God? Does God cause or allow these things to happen? Is there even a God? The questions are too important to ignore. The answers force us to wrestle with how we understand life and faith. Some offer simple answers; inadequate for times like these. Others ignore the questions, which makes us even more uncomfortable. I’m not sure a totally satisfactory answer is possible, but we must still ask and we must still consider. If the time is right for you to ask these questions, maybe the ramblings of a pastor can encourage you.
Two ideas from scripture come together to help me make sense of the devastation and destruction that result from natural disasters — tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. The first is from creation. Genesis 1:2 describes an earth that was formless, meaningless, empty, dark and had a mighty wind above its watery surface. In other words, the earth was full of chaos. Yet, out of the chaos, God created and described His creation as “very good.” But, was that the end of creation and chaos? Romans 8 states that the “whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”
What does it mean that creation groans and suffers? Could it be that tornadoes are one way?
The second idea from scripture involves the “already-not yet” nature of salvation. The scripture talks about salvation as something that has already occurred, “by grace through faith.” Yet, it also teaches us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Through Jesus we are “made righteous,” yet we must learn to “walk” in that righteousness. We are a “new creation” in Christ, yet we still struggle with the “chaos” of our old nature. We are transformed in Christ, yet being transformed as we grow and mature in our faith. This is great news, but means I still have to deal with the chaos in my life and allow God to continue His creative work in me.
I wonder if these two ideas can inform each other. Chaos is part of our life and world. Yet, God is always creating out of the chaos, redeeming and transforming it into something new. Could it be that Genesis 1 and 2 do not close the book on creation? The last chapters of the Bible speak of a new heaven and a new earth — God is still creating. So, just as He continues to create out of the chaos of my life, He continues to create out of the chaos of the natural order.
A pastor described the recent tornado as “evil.” Rather, what if we understood these natural disasters as remnants of the “primordial chaos” described in Genesis 1:2? They are the groans and sufferings of creation from the beginning. And, somehow, amidst the chaos, God continues to speak and create in this world and in our lives.
If this is true, it doesn’t lessen the pain and hurt of the loss of life and emptiness of losing everything. But it does create the possibility for hope instead of despair and faith instead of meaninglessness. God redeems chaos. Instead of doubting God’s existence or questioning His sovereignty, we can look for God’s creative Word coming out of the storm.
Romans 8 concludes with the promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus — not tornadoes, not loss of life, not loss of all our possessions. I have seen the love of God so powerfully displayed in these last days as people have responded to this terrible tragedy. The chaos has been great. But God’s love is greater. In the midst of our chaos, He is creating something new in this place and in these people. He is redeeming our loss. I must believe this. Maybe these can be words of hope and possibility as you begin to answer the questions stirring in the chaos of your life.