Tornadoes, Bradstreet, and the Sovereignty of God


I have not written a post for this blog in quite some time but I plan on continuing from here on out in diligent writing to the glory of God. I have recently been reflecting on the tornado that devastated the East Bernstadt area in Laurel County, Kentucky as real east bernstadt tornadoyesterday (March 2nd) was the one year anniversary. The tornado tore through communities leaving homes and possessions strewn across fields and yards, injured and homeless people, and six dead. As I thought back on the devastation and hurting that followed after, a poem that I read in high school entered my mind and brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes.

The poem that came to mind was “Upon the Burning of Our House July 10, 1666” by anne bradstreetAnne Bradstreet. Anne Dudley Bradstreet was born in Northampton, England in 1612 to parents of high status who educated her very well. She was married at 16 to Simon Bradstreet who was 25 at the time and who would later become the Chief Administrator in the Boston settlement’s government. She and her family immigrated to America aboard the Arabella which was one of the first ships to take Puritans to America where she became a beloved wife and mother to eight children. Bradstreet spent much time writing poetry and shared much of it with her children. She later wrote to her children about her passion for meditative poetry: “I have not studied in this that you read to show my skill, but to declare the truth, not to set forth myself, but the glory of God” (Beak, Joel & Pederson, Randall, Meet the Puritans, page 90).

The poem is as follows:

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken’d was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse
And not to leave me succourlesse.
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so ’twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall ‘ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adieu, Adeiu; All’s vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And didst thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram’d by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho’ this bee fled.
It’s purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther’s wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.

The following text notes may be helpful in fully comprehending and seeing the poem as it was written.

Line 5: fire and fire, Fire! and Fire!
Line 11: beheld a space, watched for a time
Line 14: I blest his name that gave and took, see Job 1:21
Line 24: Sate, sat
Line 40: Arm of flesh, see 2 Chron. 32:8; Isa. 9:18-20; Jer. 17:4-7
Line 42: Dunghill mists, see Ezra 6:9-12.
Line 43: House on high erect, see 2 Cor. 5:1; Heb. 11:10
Line 48: Enough to doe, ie. enough to do it
Line 52: Pelf, property, possessions
Line 54: Treasure lyes Above, see Luke 12:34

The poem and text notes as copied above came from Puritan Sermons.

Fire

I cannot help but reflect on the sovereignty of God in this fire that consumed the Bradstreet’s earthly home and possessions as well as in the tornado that ripped through East Bernstadt. Let us prayerfully consider the possessions of this world as nothing when compared with the glory of God. Let us find so much satisfaction in his triune being that we, like Bradstreet, would exalt God all the more for he alone is worthy of our full devotion and praise in all circumstances. Christian, when pain comes, be encouraged by the Holy Spirit-inspired words of the Apostle Paul:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

As it is written,

 

‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’

 

No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

Christ is far more glorious and wonderful than all of the possessions that the world can offer. May we value the one true God so much that all of these things we have been given on earth may be seen as temporary and used (and lost when taken) to the glory of God.

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