For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.—Romans 8:20-22
Over this past month the country has been rocked with numerous tornadoes resulting in 500+ deaths, the latest 100+ from a single tornado, alone, in Joplin, MO—the deadliest single tornado on record. And this not far removed from an earthquake that devastated Japan…and shall we not forget fresh in our minds hurricanes and tsunamis and floods.
I am a pastor, but I also hold a degree in meteorology and have been storm chasing for over a decade. I have seen beauty and destruction (though nothing first-hand like the images from Alabama and Joplin). As such I have a unique view that only a small percentage of others share—an understanding of the science and math explaining the order God built into creation.
Tornadoes and the likes may be quite unpredictable, but they are not unexplainable. And believe me, when you spent time studying the equations it is easy to look at a storm in pictures and on radar and not see it as a storm but as a complex series of events and parameters.
But then you see it in life and the reality behind it all returns.
As destructive as a rapidly twisting column of air can be, there remains a sense of beauty in the event. There is a hint of majesty in watching a single cloud rise, fall, and rise again only to blossom into a towering superstructure that looses lightning and spews hail. There is a recognition of power as the air churns, the winds blow, and trees topple. It reminds us of the majesty and power of God—after all, such a storm is just a microscopic particle on this small speck in this tiny solar system that’s a part of this little galaxy that spins in the midst of a seemingly infinite universe. If this is what happens here, imagine what happens out there in the midst of a star, a nebula, or a black hole, and imagine the infinite power of the God who created and controls it all!
Yet in the beauty there is also destruction. A chilling reminder that all is not right in this world.
In a YouTube video taken by a person who lived through the Joplin tornado, you hear a woman crying out prayers and praises to Jesus. A commentator, mockingly, asked why would you cry out in praise to a God who made tornadoes?
The destruction does not occur because God is some malevolent force toying with the lives of his creatures—may it never be! Rather, the destruction exists because God gave us rule over this little ball of creation and we rebelled against God and handed the rule over to Satan and brought it under God’s curse.
The destruction happens because the now-cursed creation is groaning and crying out in bondage to sin and decay waiting for its Savior. Just as the destruction (decay, disease, and death) of our bodies happen for the same reason.
When we see such images and hear such news stories it is a stark reminder of the darkness of our sin. It is a sad story of the darkness of our fall.
Yet it is also an anecdote to the hope, freedom, and glory that is to come. After all creation cries out, just as we in Jesus cry out: through the bondage, through the decay, waiting and anticipating glory.
We look at the devastation and mourn and weep for those who lost property and life; yet we look through the devastation at the cross raised above it all and rejoice because one day Jesus will return, our bodies will be made new, and creation will be set free. Then there will be perfect beauty in many forms, yet pain and destruction will be no more.
Image note: not my picture, but from a friend of a friend on facebook.