Growing up in Wisconsin I have experience many sudden severe storms. The majority of them just run together in my mind because there were so many of them. However, I do remember vividly the night of the tornado that ripped through Oakfield, Wisconsin, a town that is located about an hour from where I grew up. It was rated F5 at that time, which was the strongest rating. That night I remember the storms because there was a constant thunder heard. It was obvious that this storm had a lot of energy and we just waited and watched to see if it would impact us or not. Another vivid storm was one when I was living in Minnesota. I recall watching the clouds spin outside when the hail started falling. It started small and quickly grew to baseball and then softball size while we ran for shelter. This storm took out the window of my car and caused a couple thousand dollars worth of damage to it. It broke windows on buildings and killed birds, leaving dents in the ground. That night there was another F5 tornado, this time in Siren, Wisconsin, devastating the town. If you have ever driven through towns after a tornado you get a real sense of how overwhelming it really is and how quickly things change for people. We had a similar reaction when we visited Wadena, Minnesota right after their EF4 tornado a couple of years ago. We lived there for a short time and wanted to see it first-hand. It was an emotional experience for us.
As I think about it, these storms stand out because of the sudden and incredible destruction they brought. They were violent, unexpected, and life changing for so many people. They were close enough to me to be felt, while avoiding the direct impact. Every time there is something like that we take time to see what happened and thank God for protection. We also pray for those who lost their homes and look for ways to help. The storms bring these things to bear for us.
There have two massive tornadoes in the last couple weeks in Oklahoma. Some reports are saying that the one in El Reno and Moore were two of the largest tornadoes ever recorded. The El Reno tornado was just over 2 miles wide at its widest point which would make it the widest ever measured. That is unbelievable! There is incredible power in these storms. Of course we heard of lives lost and lives changed forever. These things are beautiful when in an open field and devastating when in a populated area. All of the research that has gone into storm prediction and warnings cannot stop them or redirect them away from people. They come at times when they are least expected and leave a path of destruction in their wake.
These events highlight the fact that we do not control the storms around us; but we do have a God who is over all of it. It teaches us to live life with intention because we do not know when things will change. It also brings us together in ways that maybe never would happen otherwise. Neighbors help each other and churches step up to serve communities. It is during the storms of life that the peace of God which transcends all understanding is more vividly felt. God is never surprised by these things and never leaves us in them. We serve a God bigger than even the strongest of storms, whether actual weather events or just hardships of life. God is ready to offer peace in the midst of the storms of life. May those who suffer today receive it.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.- Philippians 4:7