May 20, 2013, started as a typical day in Moore, Okla. Morning routines went as planned.
The residents were awakened to alarm clocks they had set the night before. Business appointments were reviewed. Children were prepared by families for another typical day of school with assignments given, activities conducted, and lessons learned.
What started as a routine day ended in horror and disaster. That afternoon a tornado with winds reaching to 210 miles per hour cut a 17-mile path of destruction through Moore. What took years to build, that strong storm destroyed in 39 minutes, with estimated damages of close to $2 billion. For some families there is no dollar amount that could determine the value of their devastation. Loved ones lost, dreams shattered, their futures snatched away in 39 minutes.
One year later, film crews returned to Moore, and the city showed great signs of progress. The debris in most cases had been cleared, new homes were now constructed where the previous ones had been destroyed. Businesses were now reopened and this devastated town now has all the appearances of making a strong recovery. The slogan that was adopted during the rebuilding process now hangs as banners to encourage the residents, Oklahoma Strong.
One interesting thing that was highlighted by all the reports was the presence of an item that before the storm was a "nice to have", but now has become common place in all buildings, a storm shelter. No matter the diversity of the use of the structure, a single family home, a church, a business establishment, an office building, or even a monument or museum, every new building now comes equipped with a storm shelter. One article described it as the "Shelter Rage". The reality that these residents have to face is that because of where they are located the possibility of another storm is inevitable. Moore is situated in what is called tornado ally. They are constantly faced with the threat of destructive storms. Storms whose specific path of destruction can not be predicted. Even though they can not accurately predict these storms they can prepare for the possibility of the storm. The presence of a storm shelter in the face of storms, has given the residents new hope.
Psalm 46:1 states, God is our refuge and strength, a present help in time of trouble (KJV). David, in writing this Psalm, realized that in life we face the possibilities of storms — unpredictable, unimaginable, unavoidable moments that catch us off guard and create damage and destruction.
Throughout Psalm 46, David describes these moments as earth moving, mountain shaking, waters roaring, but he declares the source of his faith and confidence in the first verse, God is our refuge. The Message Bible translates that same text this way, God is a safe place to hide. The word David uses, refuge, is defined as a shelter, a safe place, a rallying point. As a matter of fact, David uses that same word 10 times in the book of Psalms. No matter how different each challenge he faced appeared to be, he was able to face the difficulties of life with the same hope and confidence, God is my shelter. Let us learn from David and the residents of Moore. As we build our lives, make sure you have a shelter, a safe place you can hide. The storms of life can not be predicted, but we can prepare ourselves by having God as our shelter.
When God is your shelter, your faith is not just a momentary thing, your faith is the mainstay of your life! Faith in God is a "must have" for every area of your life. In life we face storms of sorrow, storms of sadness, and storms of struggle. These and other storms are unpredictable and unavoidable, but with God as our refuge we can stand tall and survive the storms of life. In life there are storms of sorrow, those times when we are faced with loss in our lives. When God is your shelter, storms of sorrow can not destroy you because God provides strength and comfort especially to those facing a time of mourning. St. Matthew 5:4 says," Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted" (KJV). God is the God of all comfort. The entire chapter of Isaiah 40 is devoted to the subject of the comfort that God makes available to all of us, and He will provide that comfort for us, even in the midst of storms of sorrow.
When you are faced with a storm of sadness, moments of disappointment and discouragement, God has promised to be a source of encouragement to those who trust in Him. Psalm 3:3 declares, But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head (KJV). What ever has the potential of causing us to hang our heads down in discouragement, God has promised to be the one who can and will lift us up.
Maybe your storm is one of struggle, overwhelmed by situations that have the potential to drain you of all your energy, even in a storm of struggle, God can strengthen us. Paul faced a storm like that in 2 Corinthians 12. He spoke of a painful situation, he referred to it as a thorn in his flesh, a situation that he asked God to remove. God does not remove the difficulty, but he does give Paul more grace to endure it. Listen to how Paul viewed the struggles and storms of his life in view of God's involvement in his life, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2Corinthians 12:10 In storms of struggle we find hope knowing that God has promised to strengthen us. The success of life is not in predicting nor avoiding the storms of life, true success comes when we know God as the shelter of our lives.
The Rev. Jerome Barber is pastor of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Temple in Hampton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.