OPINION – A common theme is emerging from the coverage of the deadly tornado this week in Oklahoma. It is found in the expressions of faith being made by the storm’s survivors.
Many of those interviewed openly thank God for the many lives that were spared despite near total destruction along the tornado’s path.
One particularly poignant video shows a family emerging from their storm cellar to view the devastation. With remarkable composure, a person can be heard to say, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”
These expressions of faith are troubling to some who find any acknowledgement of God offensive. But to me, they make perfect sense.
It was 25 years ago that I served as a missionary for my church in Southwest Oklahoma City. I found the people there to be generous, down-to-earth, and steadfast in their faith in God.
The expression that “there are no atheists in foxholes” probably has a related principle regarding people who live in Tornado Alley.
It was during an Oklahoma tornado in early spring of 1988 that my own faith received a considerable boost.
My mission companion and I were returning to our apartment one afternoon when we noticed that the skies had darkened dramatically. The people standing along the highway looking toward our destination had already heard the warning sirens. But we hadn’t.
As we got closer to our apartment, the wall cloud that hung over our neighborhood was so apparent that we stopped the car and took pictures. By the time we arrived in our parking lot, the clouds above us were beginning to rotate and an eerie greenish glow shone through them.
As I stood snapping pictures of an approaching funnel cloud, a neighbor called out to us that we were under a tornado warning. Since we lived in a second story apartment, taking shelter there was not an option.
Suddenly the air got deathly still and our neighbor called us over to the mailbox alcove to take shelter. We were sheltered on three sides, but still felt very exposed. In a matter of seconds the wind went from nothing to over 100 mph and it seemed that every loose item was flying up into the air. Roofs were coming off nearby buildings and trailers were being turned over just across the street. There was nowhere to go.
The power of the storm was beyond comprehension and the noise was deafening. I’ve never felt as helpless as I did at that moment.
The only thing left to do was utter a silent prayer for help.
What happened next is difficult to describe. But the second I bowed my head — before words could even form in my mind — it was as if my Creator had picked up His version of the Red Phone and was listening intently. The connection was as real as anything I’ve ever experienced.
A wave of peace and assurance washed over me and though I didn’t know what the ultimate outcome would be, I knew that I was being watched over.
I later learned that my mission companion and my neighbor were likewise praying at that moment and had very similar experiences. Within a few minutes, the storm had moved on leaving golf ball-sized hail and considerable damage in its wake. Thankfully, there was only a single fatality.
The gratitude that we felt and expressed afterward was a lot like what the survivors of this week’s storm are saying.
Nothing that I experienced could be reproduced by science. But it opened my eyes to two very important truths. The first is that life was never intended to be free from danger and chance. The world is filled with natural forces that are beyond our control.
The second truth is best expressed by Victor E. Frankl in “Man’s Search For Meaning” when he wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This is what we are seeing in those survivors in Moore, Oklahoma, who have been stripped of their earthly possessions but who remain rich in what matters most.
They choose to exercise faith. They choose to be grateful because their hearts are focused on something more important than mere things.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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