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Tornadoes and Sovereignty

May 24, 2011

[photo by Anderson Cooper, CNN]

What do I say about something like the Joplin tornado that killed 118 people (so far)?  What do I do with the tornado that hit the north side, in my city?  Is God sovereign in that?  Was he in control?  Did he allow it?  In a word, yes.  I don’t know why he allowed it.  I don’t know what good could possibly come of it.  Does it cause people to pray? Is it causing people to run to him?  Perhaps someone will find him in this situation and turn around to tell countless others about him.  I just don’t know.

Is it okay not to know?  Do I need to know?  Do I need to have God figured out?  Do I need to be able to explain the exact purpose of every tragedy, natural disaster or otherwise?

Natural disasters are harder to deal with, I think.  In cases of car accidents, shootings, and murders there is something to point at, someone on whom to heap blame, guilt, and, ultimately, justice.  You don’t have that with natural disasters.  There are no scapegoats when a hurricane pounds a coastal community or a tornado rips through a hospital.  There are no bullet holes in the bodies lying in the streets, or masked gunmen fleeing the scene.  We are left with no explanation.

I wasn’t affected by the tornadoes in any way whatsoever.  Sure, I ran outside when the sirens went off, like any good California-native, but that’s about the extent of my involvement.  Yet, I feel a sense of loss.  It’s similar to the way I felt after the 35W bridge collapse.  I was on the bridge about ten minutes before it fell into the river, but that didn’t really shake me up.  What got me was that a tragedy happened in my city… to my city.  Minneapolis is my home.  It’s people are my people.  It’s families are my family.  And even though I’m in the middle of a season of living out in the ‘burbs, my heart is in the city.  I have no doubt I’ll live there once again.  So, when something this significant, this life-altering happens to my city, in some way, it’s also happening to me.

That God is sovereign over this tragedy I have no doubt.  He allowed it to happen, plain and simple.  I don’t worship an impotent God, one who sits in heaven biting his nails hoping the tornado hits a field instead of a city.  My God is bigger than that.  My God is one who can orchestrate a series of events, even those that seem to have no Kingdom purpose, to bring about His love and glory on this Earth, now, and into eternity.

He is the God of Joplin.
He is the God of the north side.

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