Flashback to April 27th, 2011. What do you personally remember from that day? Unless you were in Alabama or a neighboring southern state, probably not much. However, for those of us around that day, each of us has a story to tell.
That morning, I remember being awakened by the strong sound of wind outside. I got up with a tense sense of unease, walked to the window, and could see the trees in my back yard leaning hard over and steadily to one side as the sound of the wind whistled through their branches. Even the house seemed to be making low, groaning noises I'd never heard before. This wasn't a tornado. It was straight-line winds that I later would learn had knocked down dozens of large trees all over the area, blown some structures apart, severed power lines, and ominously enough, was only a precursor of what was still to come.
Later that same day, twisters would cross the state of Alabama with one in particular driving a line of destruction right across the map. My family had left our home earlier that day to go be with family who had a more secure location. As the tornado approached, I remember standing just outside the shelter. The hard rain had stopped, but I've never seen anything like the lightning that flashed across the sky that night. It was eerie. It was not a brief flash here and there, but rather the entire sky seemed to stay lit with continuous overlapping flashes of lightening. What was even more strange than this was the fact that it seemed as though someone had hit the mute button on the thunder. Normally, a bright flash of lightning is followed by the boom of thunder, but this was different. Sometimes far off in the distance we could hear thunder, but for all the lightning in the sky directly above us, it was abnormally quiet.
Turns out, one of the major tornadoes that crossed Alabama passed by my house northward by about 8 to 10 miles, and northward of the shelter location by about 10 - 15 miles. We all knew someone who had been touched by the devastation that day. I personally helped a friend salvage what little could be saved from his home that had been torn down, and scattered across a street and several acres of land.
While it is true that not all storms are this bad, you do learn that storms happen. They are unavoidable. I tend to think the damage from the straight-line winds that had caused so much damage earlier that morning had everyone taking the tornado warnings for that evening a lot more seriously than they normally would have, and the experience from that morning followed by the warnings that worse was still to come probably saved a lot of lives.
Sometimes in life you get warnings of things to come; precursors that indicate trouble is coming and you had better prepare yourself. Too often though, the storms of life seem to come out of nowhere and hit us without warning. What I have also found to be true is that people can have completely different reactions to the same storms.
I had a conversation with a friend of mine who battled cancer and is now doing quite well. He still has to go for checkups, but has been cancer-free for quite some time. I remember asking him about how he felt the day he found out about it, and his answer caught me off-guard. He said he just knew everything was going to be OK, and that he never really believed he wasn't going to make it. He went on to say through the whole ordeal he had peace about it, and when asked if he ever thought he actually might die, he said no.
Looking back, seeing him now as someone who battled cancer and is who has been cancer-free for some time, it might be easy to take such statements for granted, but you have to remember that he had lived in the storm of that moment. He was talking about a perspective he had when most people I know would have been devastated. What I also believe to be true, is that his peace passed my own understanding, and I also believe that it had to be from God.
The takeaway for me is that while we all will face storms in life, we have a choice in how we respond to them. Peace can be had just as my friend had peace knowing he would win out over the battle against cancer, but in the same instance I have heard other stories of people having peace with the fact that they knew they would not survive. While this article has focused on cancer as a storm of life, I hope the broader application is absorbed.
You may never specifically face cancer in your life, but there is a storm coming. Maybe you will have some warning, but for most us, there will be no warning at all. When your storm comes, I hope you will recall two things from this article: first, storms are temporary things, and second, that as Christians we have an Anchor on which to hold that will never fail. He will see us through every storm.