My First-Ever Tornado

Posted by Paul Suckling on June 3, 2011

Tornado black and white photoSome personal and spiritual reflections on the tornadoes that ripped through Massachusetts June 1.

Last night (June 1) my wife and I went through our first-ever experience of preparing for and riding out a tornado.

There were howling winds, enormous thunderclaps and so much lightning and rain. We, thankfully, survived. But in our state of Massachusetts, four lives were lost and dozens of people were injured, with millions of dollars in damage. Hundreds of people are now homeless and thousands remain without power. A thousand National Guardsmen were called out to help in any way they could. Governor Deval Patrick went on television to offer any help that the state could offer.

The TV this morning showed some of the tragic results. As one person said, looking at all of the mess, “The inside came out.” Not since the 1950s has such happened in New England.

I gained more understanding of those who have faced similar and worse storms this deadly spring. But I still can’t even imagine what it must have been like for those who survived the devastation in Joplin, Missouri, or Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or any of the other locations recently ravaged by storms.

Personal thoughts

As the afternoon moved along and the warnings came from the TV, we decided what we would do and what we would take to the small room under the stairs in our basement: our Bibles, passports, laptop, cameras and family pictures. We couldn’t take too much, as there just wasn’t the room. Those things are what we considered most valuable and difficult to replace.

We looked around and wondered what it would be like to survive, come out and find everything from the basement and upwards gone!

What about all the mementos from our children’s early years, the gifts and the many precious memories?

Our lives spared, but…

The tornado passed, and we were very thankful that our lives had been spared and that, God willing, we will see our children and grandchild again. But, having felt so close to tragedy, I began to think through the trauma that real loss brings to people.

Life is so precious. So is family. Our possessions are way down the list of importance.

At times like these, we must focus on our relationship with God, the Creator of all. Anything physical can be replaced, one way or another.

The future

Life is temporary and transient and raises the question, Why are we here? Just to be blown away in a hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster? To be destroyed through war, as millions are? To see all we have worked for swept away in seconds?

Surely, we, as complex beings with minds, imaginations and creativity, have a much greater reason for being alive than just to live, suffer and die?

Those Bibles that were among our prized possessions tell us that God does have a purpose for us. He created humans to offer us the chance to be His children for all eternity (1 John 3:1; 5:11). But what does that mean?

Everything we know has a start and a finish. Life begins with birth and ends with death. Each day begins and ends. The universe was born and it will die (billions of years from now—or so the scientists tell us). So it’s hard to comprehend what eternity means. But life without end—life without pain or sorrow or death—is a wonderful thing to contemplate (Revelation 21:4).

What should we do?

Having been spared this latest round of natural calamities and having the opportunity to look forward with hope and with everything in my life intact, I have a renewed commitment to live the way my Creator tells me to live. Life for all eternity is by far the most important thing for me.

I glance at The Boston Globe and see their description of yesterday’s disaster: “Tornadoes kill four; emergency is declared. Storms smash Western, Central Mass.: damage reported in 19 communities.”

Tragic and so sad for so many—but there is hope for the future.

“Seek the LORD while He may be found,” the Good Book tells us (Isaiah 55:6). Ask God to help you develop a relationship with Him and His Son, Jesus the Christ, that can help you survive the very worst calamities that can happen in this physical life. And ask Him to help you prepare to live for all eternity.

Paul Suckling photoThen, the physical things that seem to matter so much now will mean nothing in comparison to what replaces them.

Paul Suckling is a Church of God, a Worldwide Association, pastor in New England.

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