“In whirlwind and storm is His way. And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.”Nahum 1:3
On Saturday, April 13th I left Lindale, Texas, my hometown, to travel to San Antonio, Texas, for a couple of ministry opportunities on the 15th.
I had been watching the weather report for a few days and they were all predicting bad weather and the potential for severe storms across central Texas into East Texas.
I had a choice to make. I could take I-20 west to I-35 and head south all the way to San Antonio. However, with storms in the forecast, I feared that one accident on I-35 might back it up all the way to Minnesota!
I chose to take Hwy 79 which heads southwest from near where I live to Austin, TX, and from there San Antonio is just a short jaunt.
Highway 79 is mostly two lanes meandering through the beautiful piney woods and small towns of East and Central Texas. I was in no big hurry and this route would have far less traffic and provide a much less stressful and more peaceful journey than the interstate…or so I thought.
As I continued to drive toward Austin, I encountered some rain off and on but nothing to be concerned about.
After about three hours of driving, the rain began to pick up some and the sky began to darken. I kept driving slower and slower as I turned the windshield wipers up faster and faster.
I had slowed to about 20 mph when suddenly I couldn’t see a thing, not the road, not the sky…Nothing!
I carefully angled over toward the shoulder (or where I thought it must be), turned my flashers on and came to a stop. I noticed just barely, through the wind swept rain and darkness, that there appeared to be a couple of vehicles very close in front of me with their flashers on as well.
Then the excitement began!
Extremely strong winds began blasting the driver’s side of my truck. Large tree limbs and various debris were sailing overhead from left to right. Then…sudden calm. I remember thinking in that moment, “I don’t think this is good.”
No sooner had that thought been completed in my brain than I was suddenly and violently slammed from the passenger’s side by even stronger winds. I felt something slam the rear of my truck, then the front and then multiple projectiles of various sizes pelted the right side of my truck.
At one point I gained enough visibility to look out to my right and see a large piece of corrugated metal roofing from a barn come sailing across the pasture in my general direction.
Then suddenly it became less general and more specific as it slammed the side of my truck, eventually scraping up and over and finding a resting place in a tree top across the road.
I felt on a couple occasions that my truck might take flight. I was extremely concerned that something might come flying through the side window or windshield and mess up my hair, not to mention the rest of my anatomy, which quite frankly, at 70 has begun to get a little messed up anyway! (Yes, humor intended)
Well, enough of all the catastrophic details. What did I learn from this buffeting from the elements?
I learned (later that evening) that I had come to a stop on Hwy 79 directly, and I mean directly, in the path of an EF-3 tornado. That’s 140mph winds!
I learned that I had stopped right next to the little town of Franklin, TX, which I did not know was even there until the storm passed. Fortunately no one was killed, though about half the town was destroyed. (I’m working on doing a benefit concert there sometime in the near future. Sort of feel a connection with those folks.)
I learned a car just in front of me had flipped upside down in the ditch. The couple in it were a little bloodied and bruised but otherwise okay. As “luck” would have it, I found the lady’s purse a couple hundred feet away from their overturned car. She was delighted; I was blessed! No luck involved, God’s kindness!
I learned my Toyota Tacoma is just heavy enough to not fly, though I believed it was sitting at a slightly different angle when the tornado had passed then where it was at the start.
Lastly and most importantly, I learned I can pray in great earnest with a really short vocabulary. It went something like this, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” and so on. You get the picture.
Franklin, TX, was devastated but no one was killed. My truck sustained over $9,000 worth of damage, but I am fine.
I was able to fulfill my two ministry dates and souls were saved, lives were touched by the gospel and God was glorified.
But how is God glorified in the whirlwind or perhaps we should ask, is He?
Is He the God of sunny days but not the stormy ones?
Isaiah writes by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in chapter 45:6-7: “I am the Lord and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity: I am the Lord who does all these.”
I’ve thought several times, “What were the chances of me driving about three hours, traveling at roughly 65 mph and intersecting with an EF-3 tornado at precisely the moment it’s crossing where I’m sitting on Hwy 79?”
I don’t think there’s any chance to it! If I’m walking humbly before the Lord, living in obedience to His word and moving by the leading of His Holy Spirit, then wherever I am is where He has me.
What are the chances of us traveling down the road of life enjoying the “Sonshine” of His love and then suddenly intersecting a dark storm and turbulent circumstances?
Again, nothing to do with chance! We must be ever maturing in our understanding of who He is and growing in our knowledge of the Word so that we are at peace both in the calm days and the stormy ones.
We must be assured of His presence in the midst of brilliant light as well as shrouding darkness. Finally, we must grow in our overall understanding and grasping of the sovereignty of this eternal, holy, awesome God we serve.
We are not as a ping pong ball getting smacked back and forth by some cosmic game of “Pong” between God and Satan.
We know from that oft quoted scripture that Paul writes to the believers in Rome, “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are the called ones according to His purposes.” (Romans 8:28)
The very implication of this verse, and that which would have been understood by those first to hear it is that “all things” would refer to the ups and downs, the easy and the difficult, the joyful and the sorrowful. All things!
It’s why I love that rather obscure little verse from that obscure little book of Nahum.
It assures me that whether I’m being buffeted from the left or the right; whether or not debris is whirling all around me and even if I take flight as I nearly did in my truck; I will fly to Him! He is my refuge. He is in the whirlwind and the storm, and the clouds…what about those clouds?
Scripture says, “They are but the dust of His feet.”
In other words, the clouds that often suddenly darken our day and loom ominously overhead, are actually the evidence of His presence. They are the dust of His feet!
Scripture tells us He goes before us, He is our rear guard, He walks beside us, He undergirds us and He sings over us.
Much like that tornado that enveloped me all around, on every side, above and below…”His way is in the whirlwind.”