Surrendering in a Tornado
With all of the tornadoes happening for our friends in the South, I have spent a lot of time praying for them and thinking about what it would be like to deal with a tornado. I heard a story once of a person who was caught in a tornado but survived because they were hit in the head by some flying debris and knocked out cold. Their body went limp and completely relaxed. When they came to, they were on the ground. The tornado had passed, and they had been thrown a great distance, but because they were not tensed up, they received only minor injuries. Had they been awake and scared, the chances are that they would not have made it.
This appears to be only a myth, but I think there is a lesson perhaps to be learned from this modern day, old wives’ tale. Most of us have most likely never seen a tornado in real life. We have all seen the footage, though, and the complete destruction of houses, towns, and cities. It is devastating. People and families lose everything because of this work of nature. It is terrifying and heartbreaking. Many cry out, “God, where are you in this?” Some perhaps lose faith altogether. Some run to God.
Though many of us have not had our houses decimated by tremendous winds, many of us have had things in our lives that have caused us to cry out to God in desperation. Many of us have had to deal with heartbreak and upset. Perhaps it is the loss of a job or a loved one. For those in Oklahoma and Illinois who are dealing with these tornados, it has to feel like they can never catch a break. How many live in fear of what may come? This is a very human response, and I think we all do it; we are all tempted to live in the fear of all the negative things that could happen to us.
Our culture does a great job at demonizing suffering, and so it encourages us to look for the most convenient way to escape hardship. It reminds us over and over that we have to protect ourselves against those things that could harm what or who we love. We have insurance, warranties, and money back guarantees on everything. As humans, made in the image and likeness of our Creator, we know that we were not meant to suffer. Suffering in of itself is not a positive thing, and is not what we were created as humans to experience. That is why suffering hurts us. But as Catholics, we are given the understanding through the Church, that suffering can be redemptive. Sin is the cause of suffering, not God. The Cross of Jesus, however, makes it possible for suffering to be redemptive. There is hope in the midst of suffering.
Negative things in our lives can come out of nowhere, like a tornado, and completely upset the delicate balance we have so craftily created for ourselves. Like a game of Jenga, the constructs of what we hold most dear can suddenly fall down before us. In the Old Testament, Job lost everything. His life, like ours and like the people of Oklahoma, does not come with guarantees. We have no way to prevent suffering from happening in this mortal life. We can try to fight it, numb it, and distract ourselves from it, but suffering comes to knock at all of our doors. The question is, how do we respond? Do we become tense and angry? Do we lose faith in God or do we run to Him? Things in our lives will inevitably be picked up and hurled into a whirlwind at one time or another. The question is, are we willing to surrender to God and place all of our trust in Him or are we going to hold tightly to those things that we might lose? When horrible things occur, are we going to lose our peace or are we, like children, going to run into the arms of the Father and let Him be in control? Will we let Him guide us and show us how to navigate the storms and tornados of our lives? St. Thérèse of Lisieux provides a shining example for us of what it means to trust God, even when it is difficult and consolation does not exist for us. Are we willing to step out in trust like that? Are we able to cry out in the midst of the storms, like Job, and say, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord”?
St. Faustina Kowalska prayed, “It is You Jesus, stretched out on the cross, who gives me strength and are always close to the suffering soul. Creatures will abandon a person in his suffering, but You, O Lord, are faithful…” Let us pray for the people of Oklahoma, all those dealing with tragedies and losses, and for ourselves, that in the midst of the tornadoes of life we would not rely on our own strength, but run to the arms of God the Father, knowing He will take care of us because He truly loves us. May we also pray that God would use us to help rebuild what tragedy has destroyed in the lives of others, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual.
These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world.