Nobody likes tornadoes. Well, maybe a few crazy folks on the Discovery Channel, but for the most part, they’re pretty much universally disliked. Growing up in Alabama I knew this well, having dealt with tornado season every spring. Years of tornado drills and listening to meteorologist James Spann had trained me to feel at least somewhat prepared for the powerful storms. What I was not prepared for, however, was the day I found out Colorado has tornadoes too.
I had been living on the side of a mountain for about a month or two, and I was adjusting to life at 9,000 feet pretty well. As far as college summer jobs go it doesn’t get much better than high school leadership camp in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Throughout my training, they educated us on the dangers of living in such a harsh environment. I was warned of wildfires, hypothermia, bears, mountain lions, elk, too much sun, not enough air…but tornadoes? Tornadoes were never mentioned. Imagine my confusion when in the middle of June, we got a call on our radios to shelter in place. There was a tornado in the valley below camp.
I wasn’t sure what to do, but I had to do something to make sure the campers were safe. It didn’t help that we were in a cabin the size of a one car garage with walls so porous birds were building nests in them. I definitely did not feel safe. Luckily, twenty yards away, the building next door was huge! It had plenty of interior rooms and was built down into the mountain. Surely it would be the safest place for the campers. I radioed to my manager and asked if we could quickly move from the rickety shack to the big safe building. The answer came back quickly:
“No. Stay in place.”
I was surprised and frankly confused by the answer. It didn’t make sense to me to stay in a weaker structure, but I still tried to be as safe as I could. I ushered the dozen fifteen-year-old boys into a bathroom the size of a conference table and told them to hang tight. Have you ever tried to get a dozen fifteen-year-old guys to sit still for any amount of time in any situation? It’s difficult. Much more difficult when they’re squished shoulder to shoulder under the sink between the shower and the stall. By this time, they were starting to ask why we couldn’t go next door to the “Big Room.” I radioed again, asking for permission to head next door. Same answer:
“No. Stay in place.”
By this point, I was getting frustrated. I was convinced that the “Big Room” next door was a safer option, and I was upset with our leadership for making us stay in a place that I thought was worse than where we wanted to be. I thought to myself, “I deal with tornadoes all the time, I know what’s best for me and my kids, why won’t they listen to me?”
Maybe you’ve felt this way in your life before. I know I have. It’s easy to get so caught up and confident in our own ideas, plans, and goals that we get shaken up when they don’t work out the way we thought they would. It’s easy to be confused when someone else gets a position you know you’re more qualified for, when a loved one steps into eternity before you’re ready to say goodbye, when someone you care about turns away from you when you need them most, when the ones you’re praying for don’t show any signs of repentance, or whatever you’ve felt that makes you want to say, “This isn’t the way things were supposed to work out. This can’t be what’s best for me.” We mourn the loss of a hoped for future. But where should the hope of our future be found? Should it be rooted in the plans we make for ourselves? Or should it be rooted in faith in a God we can trust? Fortunately, Scripture answers this clearly in Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.”
Sometimes God allows our plans to fall apart or remain unfulfilled, not necessarily because our plans were bad or our current situation is good, but because our trust is misplaced. We can look to our understanding of what we believe would be best for us and forget to trust in the Lord to direct our paths. We need to learn to trust in Him, even when things aren’t working out the way we think they should. God is still God regardless of our situations. When we pray to Him out of broken places, asking for change, we need to be ready to trust Him if He says,
“No. Stay in place.”
We can trust Him. We don’t have to know all the answers because we are loved by a God who does. He created and sustains the whole world, and nothing is ever out of His control. So when it feels like you’re in the wrong place and desperate for change, put your trust in Him, hope in His never ending steadfast love, and remember what His Word says:
“The Lord is good,
a stronghold in the day of trouble;
He knows those who take refuge in Him.”
In case you were wondering, the tornado passed by our camp without putting our cabin to the test. The next week, while talking about the incident at lunch with Dave, the head of maintenance, he laughed off my concerns between bites of Little Caesar’s Pizza, saying, “Those cabins withstand hundred mile per hour winds just about every year from the blizzards we get up here. You were safer than you felt in there, they knew what they were doing.” Even though I thought I knew better, it turns out I didn’t know as much as I thought. That day, I learned to trust my leadership, even when I didn’t understand or agree with them. God has taught me the same lesson through the years. Even when we don’t understand or agree with Him, He is good and we can trust Him.