In Oklahoma, all you have to say is “April 19” or “May 3,” and people know exactly what you mean. Many say we now can add to this list of traumatic events in the state’s history the date “May 20.”
Each of these tragic events—the Murrah Building bombing and the Moore tornadoes of 1999 and today—embody painful moments and memories for us. Yet, they also represent what it means to survive and overcome tragedy as Oklahomans, as Christians.
While Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief volunteers and others are on the ground, serving families affected by the Moore tornado on May 20 (as well as the terrible tornadic storms that affected Shawnee and Carney and other parts of the state the previous day), this occasion has offered another moment for God’s people to shine.
The world, through the lens of media and social media, is watching how we react to this moment. Will Oklahomans—and Christians in particular—lose faith and shrink back in doubt? Will we allow onlookers to say, “Where is their God now?” (Psalm 115:2). Or will we instead turn this dark hour into one of our finest?
During the throes of World War II, the great Winston Churchill saw the forces of Nazi Germany march across Europe, seemingly invincible. He refused, however, to call the times in which he lived “dark days.” Instead, Churchill called them simply “stern days.”
Sometimes, it appears Americans are living in something that could better be described as “frivolous days.” This silly and inappropriate material that passes for entertainment, for example, bombards us daily on television and the Internet and stands as a testament to our frivolity. When disaster strikes as it did on May 20, however, all of the silliness ceases and life becomes inescapably real.
The outpouring of prayer and charitable gifts are evidence that people can come out of the silliness and into seriousness. We can rise to the occasion and answer the call. We cannot, however, do this alone, but only by His power.
In John 16, Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” Christ, the Man of Sorrows is acquainted with sorrow, with grief and loss. Jesus, Himself, suffered more than anyone in history.
In fact, He suffered more than all of our sufferings put together. In the same passage, Jesus did not simply say “you will have trouble” in this life. Thanks be to God, He did not leave it at that. “Take heart!” Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.”
Brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends, now is the time to “take heart!” Amid the great loss of life and property—as we rise from the rubble and plan to rebuild, as we serve those most in need and pray like never before—let us “take heart.”
Churchill lived to see such heart during the Battle of Britain in which the smaller, outmatched Royal Air Force successfully held back the powerful German Luftwaffe. Learning of the sacrifice and bravery of the pilots during the crucial World War II battle, Churchill famously said, “never was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Today we find ourselves outnumbered by the obstacles to regain our footing in Oklahoma. Yet we will, by God’s grace, rise to the occasion. At stake, we recognize, is the very future of this state and the very testimony of the Christians of this state. To those who are tirelessly helping victims of these tornadoes, we offer words of thanks by echoing Churchill in saying, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”