Snow is rare in south Alabama, and when I say rare, I mean we see actual snow about once every 15 years or so. The snow and ice event that we saw here this month is something that my children most likely won’t see again until they are adults. As news came out early in the week that winter weather was approaching, news closely followed of school and business closings. Our whole area hunkered down and stayed inside. My family had three days at home during the week of the storm – a welcome break from school and the normal business that typifies our lives. We knew in advance that the weather was coming, so we were prepared. Before the first drop of freezing rain fell from the sky, my family was warm and safe in our house, equipped with anything we could possibly need for the next several days. At the end of the first day, I was curled up in my pj’s by the fireplace (which was being used for the first time in the seven years we have lived here), enjoying time with my family, and thanking God for this unexpected break from our normal routine. It was a picture of peace and comfort.
Then I noticed the news coming in from Birmingham, just a few hours north of us. I saw posts on Facebook recounting tales of having to abandon cars and walk home in the snow carrying children. I saw news of wrecks, traffic gridlock, and people stranded at work for the night. The news of parents not being able to get to their children, and the children having to spend the night at school broke my heart, as my babies were curled up safely next to me. As I read this news, I started to feel guilty. How could I enjoy this peaceful time with my family when so many families that I knew were apart that night? How could I enjoy my warm fire when others were stuck in cars out in the cold just a few hours north of us? I sat and prayed for those that I know in Birmingham. That’s all I could do. I felt guilty, but the situation was not my fault, and praying was the only thing that I could do.
As I prayed, I wondered how the same storm could produce such different scenes. The news the next day was that the weather forecasters had just gotten it wrong. They are human like all of us, and they just did not expect the conditions to be as extreme as they turned out to be. Thousands of people trusted them, and as a result thousands of people were not prepared. Wrong information led to ill-informed decisions, and the unfortunate results followed. We in south Alabama were very fortunate that we were given the information that we needed to adequately prepare.
There is another event that will one day produce two such disparate scenes, and one whose consequences will be infinitely more tragic. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad“ (2 Corinthians 5:10). If we are members of the body of Christ, then we are fortunate that we have been given the knowledge of the Bible so that we may adequately prepare for eternity. Those of us in south Alabama were not any smarter or more deserving than those north of us. We were just blessed to have been given the information to prepare. The difference was knowledge.
That night I felt guilty being in a state of comfort and warmth while others were cold, separated from warmth and security. Should we not, as Christians, feel guilty that we sit in a state of comfort and safety in Christ, while others nearby are dangerously unprepared for His coming? “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
Although I had no knowledge that would have helped those trapped in snow and ice, I dohave knowledge that will help those trapped in sin. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
How can I rejoice in the coming of the day of the Lord knowing that the same day will cause others misery? “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3).
If I could go back in time and warn my friends in Birmingham, would I? Would I warn them that the weather forecasters had it wrong? Would I try to convince them to stay home that day and save them from being stranded in the cold? Of course I would. We all would. Are the consequences of Jesus coming again as real to us as the dangers posed by a coming storm? It’s harder to see, but that day is real, with consequences that are permanent. Why is it that we would warn someone of a coming storm with no hesitation, but we do hesitate to warn them of something so much bigger? We do hesitate to tell them that what they have heard is not the truth. We rejoice in the warmth of fellowship with Christ while failing to share it with others who are cold and lost and desperately in need of His warmth.
Being at home with my family that night felt wonderful. We sat, enjoying together the comforting warmth of the fire. My family is also preparing for the day when we will be forever in God’s light and warmth, forever separated from the cold of sin. My prayer is that I live my life in a way that helps to give others that same opportunity to prepare.
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
This article was originally posted on February 24, 2014.
by Susan Ling
Susan and her husband, Jonathan, worship with the Eastern Shore Church of Christ in Daphne, AL. They have three children ages 10, 8, and 6.