The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 25, 2013

Oklahoma twisters, bombing show the will of God

The Back Porch

By Nerissa Young

— A co-worker at my retail job suggested the U.S. should disown Oklahoma after Monday’s deadly tornado.

He wasn’t being mean-spirited, just practical. He followed his comment with another that it costs a lot of money to keep rebuilding the same houses.

He’s right. It does. Especially in Moore, which has seen four F-3 or higher tornados in the past 14 years.

Many people remember the May 3, 1999, one. Others hit May 8-9, 2003. And now this one.

In October 1999, I stood at the construction site for the Oklahoma City bombing memorial and talked to a local TV videographer. He had pulled people from the wreckage of the 1999 twisters, and he had covered the 1995 Murrah building bombing.

He said someone asked him, “What did you do to make God so mad?” The “you” the person spoke of was Oklahoma.

During the two weeks I worked in the 1999 destruction zone and the year and a half I lived in Oklahoma, I never heard one person blame God for the Murrah bombing or the twisters. The first person they called upon for help was God, sure that He would be faithful to provide.

I don’t read a lot of Christian self-help books, but my favorite is “The Will of God” by Leslie Weatherhead. It answers a question that I and many others have when horrific tragedies strike.

He maintains that such tragedies are not God’s will. The earth exists in a fallen state where bad things happen to everyone. The will of God is manifested in how His people respond to those bad things.

Weatherhead, a British pastor, wrote the book based on sermons he gave during the depths of World War II, so he wasn’t speaking in the hypothetical.

He said there are God’s intentional will, God’s circumstantial will and God’s ultimate will.

God’s intentional will is His ideal plan for humanity, God’s circumstantial will is His plan within certain circumstances, and God’s ultimate will is the final realization of His purposes. Nothing, Weatherhead maintains, can thwart the ultimate will of God but the free will of humans plays into God’s intentional and circumstantial wills.

As a believer, I can’t accept that it was God’s will for 10 children to die. The Creator who took the care to form those lives in their mothers’ wombs could not be so cavalier about taking them away.

So Oklahomans and the nation are left with the circumstantial will of God. How will they respond? How will the U.S. — the “us” — respond?

West Virginia has certainly been in need of its share of help — as recently as last summer’s derecho. And West Virginians have often been first in line to help others when they needed it.

The helping is one way in which the circumstantial will of God is realized.

I vote to keep Oklahoma in the union for practical and ethereal reasons. I drive a car and eat hamburgers, so I’m in favor of a state that’s a leading producer of oil, beef and wheat.

On a deeper level, the country needs that constant, abiding faith in the Lord that Oklahomans possess. They may not be in church every Sunday, but they do believe.

What we the people do will be the evidence of our own beliefs.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© Nerissa Young 2013