I was in seventh grade in 1979 when I first realized the personal impact of a tropical storm. Hurricane Frederic redeveloped in the Gulf of Mexico and was headed in our general direction. By the morning of September 12, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration labelled Frederic as a Category 4 Hurricane with sustained winds approaching 140 miles per hour. My parents had us use the day preparing our house for the storm. We boarded up windows. We cleaned the tub and filled it with emergency water. We were as ready as could be. The eastern side of a hurricane is typically the most dangerous. The rotation of a hurricane spawns multiple tornadoes on its eastern side. Our parents put us to bed in our jeans and t-shirts, not knowing what the rest of the night would bring. Then at approximately 10:00 p.m. local time the night September 12, 1979 Hurricane Frederic made landfall near Mobile, Alabama. We lived a few miles east of Mobile in West Pensacola, Florida.
The next morning we surveyed the damage. In our neighborhood, the damage was slight. That damage included a few small trees, too many branches and limbs to count, a couple of houses with minor roof damage, and some with broken windows. The biggest issue for my family and our immediate neighbors was a blown transformer on the pole in front of our house. We would spend the next week without power using camping stoves to cook what food would spoil in the hot Florida September. We had more than a few family friendly “block parties” that week as neighbors pitched in what food they had.
The damage to the beaches of the Gulf Coast of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi was much greater. Frederic destroyed fishing piers, public parks, houses, and condominiums all along the Gulf Coast area. Dauphin Island in Mobile Bay became isolated. Frederic destroyed the bridge connecting it to the mainland. For the foreseeable future the only way to get to Dauphin Island was by boat or ferry. The sand dunes at the Gulf Islands National Seashore that we loved to roll down were no longer there, Frederic had turned every dune covered barrier island into a flat sand box. Recovery would take years.
Let’s fast forward to my adult life in Walker County, Alabama. The date is April 25-28, 2011. This was a busy time for thunder storms spawning major long track tornadoes from Texas, Alabama, Missouri, all the way to the Canadian Border. There were a total of 358 tornadoes in four days. 211 of those tornadoes were on April 27 alone. When the storms were over and the numbers came in over 250 people lost their lives. There were billions of dollars in personal property, business, and infrastructure damage.
Storms like Hurricane Frederic, Hurricane Katrina, or the tornado outbreaks of 1974 and 2011 impact the lives of those in their path. They also impact those whose friends, loved ones, and businesses lie in the path of the storms. As a result of storms like these engineers learn a lot about construction techniques. Government learns about poor builders, those who did not follow existing building codes or took a lazy approach to construction.
Many times when storms or tragedy strike, we find ourselves asking a question similar to this, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The Bible gives us the answer; an answer that requires a faith and strong foundation.
I find it interesting that Jeremiah asks a similar question in Jeremiah 12:1, “Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” In other words, “Why do good things happen to bad people?”
There is a quick answer to our original question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” as well as the question Jeremiah posed. We find this short answer from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
But what are the reasons bad things happen to good people? We will look at my answers next time. In the mean time, what do you think?