Preparing for storm season

Preparing for storm season is part of life in Kansas. Powerful storms and tornadoes are usually the first thing that comes to mind whenever people think about my beloved home state. Even when I was in Ireland, once people realized where I was from, the first thing they asked about was if I had experienced storms.

It was either the tornadoes or The Wizard of Oz. No, I don’t have a dog named Toto. No, I don’t have ruby red slippers. Sorry to disappoint.

Tornadoes are scary things, which is why preparing for storm season matters. I’ve never been in a tornado per se, but I’ve been close to them. I’ve seen them from a distance, and I’ve felt the frightening stillness that proceeds one. I’ve witnessed hail that broke windows and shattered vinyl siding. I’ve seen torrents of rain that washed away roads and drowned wheat crops. And I’ve walked in the debris and rubble of the aftermath. Powerful, dangerous, deadly—tornadoes pose a terrifying threat to people who aren’t ready for them.

But what if you are ready?

In the last ten years, tornadoes have started venturing out of their traditional habitat, the central plains and Midwest. States like Missouri and Massachusetts and Alabama and Georgia have started seeing tornadoes more frequently, and the damage they do is unprecedented. Why? Because few in those parts of the country have ever experienced a storm like that before, and preparing for storm season isn’t something they think about.

In May 2011, an EF5 tornado slammed into Joplin, Missouri. Officially, 158 people died, and more than 1,100 people were injured.

Four years earlier, in May 2007, a gigantic EF5 wedge tornado struck the small Kansas town of Greensburg and leveled 95% of it. The tornado itself was wider than the town. Eleven people died.

Instagram image storm season prepIt was a similar-sized tornado, although the size of the cities was vastly different. So how can one city have seen so many die while the other only a fraction? That’s not to minimize the deaths of 11 people. Any death is tragic. But what made the difference?

There were many reasons, but I wonder if one has to be that the Joplin tornado of 2011 was only the third tornado to hit the city since 1971. That’s three tornadoes in 40 years. Greensburg, on the other hand, probably has at least one close call per year.

People in Greensburg were prepared. They had shelters, safe places, basements. They listened to the warnings and knew what to do and where to go. They were ready.

You can’t expect people who’ve never experienced a tornado to know how to withstand one.

Trouble is natural

Preparing for storm season is a great idea, but we don’t face tornadoes every day. Those aren’t the storms I’m talking about. Jesus told His disciples that facing trouble and storms in this life is something they should expect (John 16:33), and that holds true for us today. So many times, Christians think that life is going to go well for them. We expect to enjoy blessings and good harvests and problem-free lives, and to a certain extent, we are supposed to expect those things. But not from life.

Expect good things from God, but there’s no good thing that comes from life (James 1:17) . Anything good in life is from the Lord directly.

Instead, we’re supposed to expect trouble (1 Peter 4:12). We’re supposed to be on the lookout for storms. This truth shows up in Scripture over and over again. Think of Jesus’ story about the two men who built houses (Matthew 7:24-27). The foolish man built his house on sand; the wise man built his house on the rocks. And when the storm came, the foolish man’s house collapsed.

Storms will come in our lives. There’s no escaping them. So instead of denying that they’re possible or trying to outrun them, isn’t it better to prepare for them?

Preparing for storm season

Build your life on a solid foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10). When you’re putting down the bedrock of your life, be sure you’re building on unchanging truths. God is good. Jesus saves you. The Holy Spirit will guide you. And He’s working everything for our good and His glory, regardless of what it may feel like right now. If that’s your foundation, no storm can collapse it. Sure, the wind might rattle the glass, but your house will stand.

Nahum 1:7Have a safe place to run (Nahum 1:7). Storms hit us in every moment of our lives, and we need to be ready to run to God for help. Throw your worries to Him. Let Him carry the weight of your burdens. Stop trying to carry it yourself or stand up against the wind on your own strength. Rest in His strength.

Hear His instructions and obey (Psalm 32:8-10). God has given us the Bible so that we know what’s right. He teaches us how to live, how to be blessed, how to be wise. But many times, we just hear and don’t put what we’ve learned into practice. You have to do both (James 1:22).

Storms are scary

When the sky goes dark and the wind starts to blow, when thunder is rumbling so loud that it shakes you, it can be terrifying. And you can feel alone. But don’t. Because you’re not. And preparing for storm season means you don’t have to be afraid.

Life works the same way. If you’re a Jesus-follower, storms are going to fall on you. But you don’t have to be afraid of them. God’s already given you everything you need to withstand them. You just have to use it.

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Sun rising over milo at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Even sunlight fails

Have you ever seen an eclipse? They’re pretty shocking, if you haven’t experienced one. For it to be daylight but not … it’s unsettling.

From some early morning googling, it seems the first recorded solar eclipse took place around 3340 B.C. That’s more than 5,000 years ago! Can you imagine what people were thinking when that happened? There are eclipses mentioned throughout historical documents and literature all throughout the ancient world. Again, thanks to Google, apparently there’s an eclipse mentioned in Amos 8:9 (http://www.earthview.com/ages/history.htm) that took place in 763 B.C.

Eclipses are something that people have been watching for thousands of years, and I can only imagine how puzzled people must have been when they first started studying them. But for those people who looked at the Sun as though it were a god to be worshipped, an eclipse must have frightened them. For all they knew, sunlight was supposed to be constant and unwavering. The sun was always supposed to shine. It would shine until it set, and then it would shine again as it rose.

Maybe there is some benefit to eclipses that I don’t know about, like for nature or the universe or something, but for all I can tell, an eclipse exists for one purpose: To demonstrate that even sunlight isn’t constant. People who worship the Sun must have freaked out way back when because when the object of their worship went dark for no reason at all, they had no idea why it happened. Granted, we live in a more educated culture now, so we understand it. Or do we?

Sun rising over milo at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sun rising over milo at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is James 1:17.Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

I’ve always loved this verse, but when I was a freshman in college, I learned to love it even more because I found out what the words meant. I took an astronomy course that year, and my teacher was a believer (it was a Christian college, but I think he might have been one of the only truly kind people there).

In any case, that statement “never changes or casts a shifting shadow” is actually in reference to the rising and setting of the sun, and the part about a shifting shadow is in reference to an eclipse.

Check it out in the Amplified Version:

Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse].

Isn’t that cool? The Book of James might have been written as early as A.D. 45, and the fact that we can find something like this in there is pretty amazing. Astronomical, maybe?

So what does this mean for us today?

Well, here’s the deal. The Sun is obvious. It’s easy to look at the sun and trust that it’s going to keep shining no matter what. And now, in our advanced and educated era, we understand eclipses. We know what they are, and we know why they happen. We can even predict them! (There will be a solar eclipse in May this year.)

But the Sun is part of a created system, something God imagined and made for us to enjoy. Now what our world has done is turned the creation into a god or because we “understand” it, we consider ourselves gods. But the Sun, as powerful as it may be, isn’t in control of what it does or doesn’t do. It’s a star. It’s an average yellow star tucked away at the edge of an average galaxy in an ever-widening universe.

It’s tempting to put our trust in science and the things we can explain. The things we can’t explain or can’t understand are scary, so we either make up explanations or we ignore them. That’s what we’ve done with God. I’m sure that’s what people did with eclipses until they could explain what they actually were.

An eclipse is a sign that even sunlight fails sometimes. Even something that we think is as constant as sunlight can be darkened in an instant if God wants it to be. But God doesn’t experience eclipses. He doesn’t rise or set like a sun; He is constant. And there’s nothing in existence that can blot out His light.

So if you’re out and about today and the sun is shining (or even if it isn’t), remember to thank God for the gift of light, but remember that light isn’t a constant. And the light shining on us is only here because God wants to be. But what’s nice to know is that even if the sun stops shining, God doesn’t.