A couple days ago, as I was leaving Shreveport, Louisiana, the skies around me unleashed a fury like none I have ever seen or felt. I’m talking about lightning strikes that shook my car and rain that prevented me from seeing the car in front of me at the stoplight. It was amazing. But at the same time, it was terrifying.
Storms are powerful things. I’ve seen them rip apart buildings, splinter trees, and toss vehicles like they were my nephews toys. Storms have caused me to cower in fear and run like my life depended on it.
But every storm reveals something to me: the awesome power of God and His creation.
Back up a minute: Death, destruction, and doom remind me of God?!
Um, yes. Absolutely.
You see, the God I believe in is the same God that flooded the world. The same God that rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah. That set the plagues upon the Egyptians. That commanded the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites. Who split the ground and swallowed up those that rebelled from His way. Who flipped over tables and whipped those who made a market out of His temple.
Yes, the God I love and follow is full of righteous fury. He is powerful beyond words. Terrifying at times.
I often find myself speaking about God in a purely safe way; He is the shelter in the storm. The safe harbor. He is the love and gentle. And kind. And if we just believe in Him we will live happily ever after.
Oh, how we are so wrong. You see, sometimes, God is the storm. Sometimes, God sends down fire and rains destruction on the world. Tornadoes are referred to as ‘the Finger of God” (thanks to the great movie Twister). Sometimes, the path that God calls us to follow is NOT the safe path that will get us out unharmed.
I know all this, and still believe in Him. Still follow His teachings. Still accept His love. Because I know that these things all happen for a reason.
Several years ago, I went through a stormy patch of life. I was convinced that God had abandoned me and left me to fend for myself upon those waves. I look back and I realize that God was always there for me; He never let me drown, but gave me the strength to keep my head above the waters. I am sure that He sent the storms to force me to let go of the things I was holding onto that would have dragged me under; relationships, preconceived notions, opinions, and the shadow of the past.
Over the past couple years, God has set my world on fire, literally and figuratively. Many things from my past perished in those figurative flames, giving me the space to grow and the opportunity to rebuild who I am meant to be.
In Joplin, despite the destruction and the devastation, the deaths and the wounds, I saw a community of people come together to care for one another. Neighbor took care of neighbor. Strangers became valued friends. And many people turned to God in praise and thanksgiving for the blessings that they had received after the world they knew had been torn apart.
You see, God’s fury is part of His love. Yes, I have been scarred and burned, faced the darkness and survived, but I have learned that every time, God is there with me. Leading me. I didn’t become a Christian to be safe. I didn’t choose to follow God because I thought it would be easy. I follow Jesus Christ because, no matter how many times I fail, I am loved.
I’ve always said that the most dangerous (and most glorious) place to be is in the palm of God’s hand. It’s also very beautiful. And scary. And satisfying.