“Students are running everywhere. Holy God.” This student’s tweet, shortly after gunfire
broke out yesterday at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, tells the story. Ten are
dead, with 15 wounded. The school’s website states that Umpqua is a “peaceful, safe
atmosphere.” And so it was, before a tragedy the school will never forget.
In more bad news, Hurricane Joaquin is coming. The storm has already devastated parts of the Bahamas, and will begin affecting the U.S. this weekend. Several governors have declared states of emergency. Joaquin is expected to impact over 65 million people from South Carolina to Massachusetts.
When you hear of yet another college campus shooting, do you feel anger? Grief? Frustration? Powerlessness? When a hurricane is bearing down on you, do you feel the same emotions?
Here’s the difference: a shooting comes without warning. A hurricane is forecast several days before it arrives.
It was not always so. On September 8, 1900, a Category 4 hurricane destroyed Galveston, Texas. The National Weather Service had warned the Galveston office that a “tropical storm” had moved northward over Cuba, but forecasters believed it would travel northeast and affect the mid-Atlantic coast. They were wrong. The 1900 hurricane remains the worst weather-related disaster in American history in terms of loss of life.
When we cannot predict tragedy, we can still prepare for it.
In The Key to Triumphant Living, Jack Taylor states that every sin we commit must be confessed immediately to God. He notes, “Every revival about which I have read was initiated by honesty in prayer and confession of sin. This is without exception.” Missionary Bertha Smith advised us to “keep short accounts with God.”
The psalmist testified, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). But lamps must be lit; lights must be followed. D. L. Moody said of the Bible, “This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.”
In 2 Samuel 5, the Jewish people “anointed David king over Israel” (v. 3). The Philistines immediately went on the attack. Did the new king marshal the army? Initiate a diplomatic response? “David inquired of the Lord” (v. 19), and was told to attack the enemy directly.
A second time the Philistines threatened, so “David inquired of the Lord” again (v. 23a). This time God directed him to “go around to their rear, and come up against them opposite the balsam trees” (v. 23b). And once again he “struck down the Philistines” (v. 25).
When you face challenges, do you go to God first, or last? Do you fall back on what has worked in the past, or seek his new word for this new situation?
The best way to prepare for tragedies such as yesterday’s shooting is to be close to God before they strike. Spurgeon was right: “If we are weak in communion with God, we are weak everywhere.” Your calm faith in the midst of tragedy will be your most powerful witness to a skeptical culture.
Warren Wiersbe: “When it seems as if God is far away, remind yourself that he is near. Nearness is not a matter of geography. God is everywhere. Nearness is likeness. The more we become like the Lord, the nearer he is to us.”