Oklahoma, “Groaning”, Longing
To see the catastrophic impact of the F5 tornado that leveled Moore, Oklahoma is to ask the questions that can’t be ignored in times like these. Why all the disasters? Why all the devastation? Why all the pain and suffering? If you are a believer then you have to ask an even tougher question, and that is, if God is all-powerful and hasn’t left us alone why has He allowed such tragedy?
Why is there a “death toll” that counts among it’s numbers the most innocent and vulnerable such as the children at Plaza Towers Elementary School? As Christ followers we have to reconcile the notion of a loving and gracious God who, “protects, and cares for us”, with a God who may come off as aloof and distant in times of great loss.
In my context as a pastor many look at these disasters as fulfillment of Bible prophecy pointing to the eminent return of Jesus. Are these natural disasters an indication of God’s soon return, “the footsteps of an approaching God”, as we have said for years? Or is it evidence of His looming judgment upon the wicked and unrepentant?
Maybe it’s all just simply a matter of Mother Nature being left to wreak havoc in her own natural way. What ever the question put fourth we have to acknowledge that something indeed is going on and some answers would sure be nice.
Henry Wadsworth Longellow penned these words:
Be still, sad heart! And cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Insightful observations by Longfellow, but his words are insufficient. While it is true the sun is still shinning and yes we know this life is not without its cloudy, or rainy days (especially in Florida!). While we may acknowledge that perhaps there is a “silver lining” behind every dark cloud it does not release us from the pain and frustration we know at this very moment. It doesn’t still our anxious, or anxiety ridden souls. It would help to know that we’re not just left to the whim of nature, but that indeed there is a destination that we’re moving toward and that our story has a good ending.
There’s a collection of verses in the book of Romans in the Bible that provide both insight and hope. Romans 8:18-23:
“18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
This groaning the Bible speaks of is “travail”, “sorrow”, “pain”. It is a longing for release, deliverance, and freedom. It’s not just any kind of groaning, but a groaning as in childbirth. While us guys can’t really grasp the pangs of physical birth we do know the pain of spiritual longing. It’s what the Israelites experienced during their time of bondage in Egypt at the hands of Pharaoh. Exodus 2:23 says: “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.”
In essence then all of creation both human beings as well as the nature that surrounds us operates with a deep dissatisfaction and frustration, or a “groaning”, if you will. Nature’s harsh lashing out reveals the same deep longing that all of fallen humanity feels. The storms, tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes are a revelation of something more to come that doesn’t devastate, mame, or kill. Nature, like you and me anticipates a day of reconciliation and restoration through the divine creator God.
Paul is saying that the pain of these present moments (and it is very real) is only subdued when we compare it to the “glory” of our future hope. That glory is first revealed in us through new bodies unriddled by disease or age (I Corinthians 15:51). Then it is revealed through a cleansing of the earth, and the earth made new (Revelation 21:1-2). It is the destiny that every human heart hungers for. Though occasionally veiled as we fall victim to nature’s own longing, hope is soon renewed when the sun rises on a new day. Hope returns when first responders recover someone trapped in rubble. Hope returns when families are united, bruises heal, and children return to a new school.
But for right now, in these moments of great despair let us draw close to those who now suffer the most. Let us offer relief, condolence, and resources. Let us put our muscle and money behind rebuilding with them what has been taken away. You can donate with confidence through these organizations:
Hang on to this HOPE, there is a relationship with a creator God, that once restored in full, will dry every tear, and cure the problem of death and destruction forever. No more frustration. Amen. (Revelation 21:4)