How we stayed calm during last week's nuclear missile warning

If you were awake at 8:07 a.m. last Saturday morning in Hawaii and saw the nuclear missile warning on your smartphone, the next 38 minutes will not easily be forgotten. 

Exactly one week ago, January 13, most of us in Hawaii received an emergency alert on our smartphones warning that a ballistic nuclear missile was headed to Hawaii.

It was very surreal.  

Initially, I was in shock and disbelief, not really knowing how to respond. The severity of the warning did not sink in until nearly 30 seconds after first reading it. But even after we came to grips with the threat of a nuclear missile headed our way, people in our house were pretty calm.

My wife's parents and one of their friends, all visiting from the mainland, were with us when we received the warning. After the warning was canceled at 8:45 a.m., the friend of Julie’s parents said, "Because you and Julie stayed calm, we all stayed calm."

It is true... our family was not freaked out. In light of all that happened last week, I took some time to think about what kept us calm during this moment of panic and came up with five reasons. 

#1 The sirens did not go off. After the emergency warning showed up on our smartphones, we did not hear sirens. At the time, I did not think anything of it. I just knew something was not right about the warning. As I processed everything, I realized there were no sirens. Maybe subconsciously, we expect sirens to be part of a potentially catastrophic emergency.

Had the sirens sounded, the reality of the warning would have hit me harder. That could have caused me to panic.

#2 There were no updates on my smartphone that followed the alert. Maybe follow up announcements are not part of the protocol. It may also be that our technological and media-filled culture causes me to feel that if news is not constantly updated, it is either not important or not happening. Because news happens in real time, part of me felt like we should be getting real time updates to the original warning if this missile warning was a serious threat.

#3 Television stations continued with normal programming. If North Korea did fire a nuclear missile toward Hawaii, you would expect network news and all television stations in general to switch very quickly to news. This is what normally happens during major world events, tragedy, natural disasters, war, etc. However, last Saturday, programming on all our stations both local and national went on as usual without interruption.

#4 North Korea aiming a nuclear missile in our direction was no guarantee the bomb will hit us. North Korea’s track record made it far more likely that the missile would miss Hawaii rather than hit us.

During the 38 minutes after the warning was given and before the warning was canceled, the first four reasons gave me peace knowing that the chances of Hawaii being hit by a nuclear missile were pretty slim. My fifth reason for staying calm is because of Jesus. If a nuclear missile really did hit, this peace from God would have truly sustained us through it all.

#5 Jesus gave us peace
We did not realize what the panic in Hawaii looked like until later that evening when we saw the news. We really had a strong peace and calm that no matter what happened, that if we died, we would see Jesus that day. 

There are times I wonder how I would truly respond if forced to die for Jesus. I would like to think I would. But I often wonder what I would do if that moment presented itself. In my own strength, I do not have what it takes to die for Jesus. After last Saturday, I am even more convinced that the Holy Spirit does give strength to overcome even the most difficult situations to glorify God. 

These were some Bible verses that God brought to mind and heart last Saturday.

John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

1 Peter 5:7
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Philippians 4:7
“the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:26-27
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

As we confronted our eternity last Saturday, I learned what it was like to walk in the peace of Christ. Salvation and eternity with God became tangibly real and secure. There was a realness about eternity with God that gave me the calm assurance that no matter what happened, we would be ok. Second, the Holy Spirit gave us peace to go through this. I can truly say that wherever God guides us, He will provide everything we need. 

There is power in Christ.  My prayer is that we all find peace, hope and life through Jesus. Whatever we may be going through, let us fix our eyes on Jesus.