Hurricanes Remind Me of Two Great Truths About God
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma brought unprecedented devastation to the United States. Just weeks after hurricane Harvey brought more than 40 inches of rain to Houston, flooding the city and displacing hundreds of thousands of texans. Hurricane Irma, the strongest storm ever measured in the Atlantic Ocean carved out a path of destruction in Florida hard to imagine.
In the wake of these two great storms is death, destruction, floods, and lives that will never be the same. But if you were watching closely, and paying attention, you saw two immutable facts about God on display during these storms.
As I scrolled social media and my news feed perusing articles from across the country reporting on the devastating effects of these hurricanes, one thing continued to catch my eye. People, sharing the details of their encounter with nature’s fury before, during and after their tangle with the hurricanes included God in their thoughts.
People sharing their stories on social media included phrases like “God help us,” and “pray for us.” One official statement from a caribbean nation in the path of Irma ended with the phrase “May God protect us all.” It seemed that my eyes could not help but notice the references to God in story after story.
One atheist on the island of St. Martin, directly in the path of Irma, asked his social media friends to pray for all the people he was with. He was genuinely afraid of what would happen and he wanted others to petition God on their behalf for safety. And the “prayers” of atheists rolled in to let him know people were thinking of him.
But wait a minute, if I’m an atheist, and I do not believe that God exists, why would I ask people to pray to God? Is it really any help at all to petition a deity that does’nt exist? Why not ask people to pray to the sun, or better still, pray to the ocean to stop being so angry. These would make more sense than an atheist asking people to pray to God. Unless of course, there’s no such thing as an atheist.
God is in control.
Many will use this time to ask “if God exists, where was He during the storm?” They will These people will remind everyone that will listen that an all-powerful, benevolent God did exist, surely He would have stopped the storm. But the issue really isn’t whether God exists. The issue they are really grappling with is whether God is good, and whether He is omniscient.
For example, the “friendly atheist, Hemant Mehta, criticized people for giving thanks to God as Irma left without doing as much damage as originally thought she would do:
“People are thanking God that Irma isn’t doing as much damage as was predicted… but it doesn’t seem to cross their minds that, according to their own beliefs, God created the hurricane and led it down its path of destruction. God could’ve not done that. God could’ve blown the hurricane away from all those places inhabited by people. But He didn’t. That won’t stop some people from giving God all the credit in the world.”
According to his worldview, a loving, benevolent God would never have let Irma make landfall in the first place. Even though it could have been worse, and done far more damage, this atheist could never concede that prayers might have actually moved God to reduce the force of the hurricane so the damage would be less. But that’s because he doesn’t understand God, His sovereignty, sin, and the curse on creation. What I find most interesting is the way in which Mehta speaks of God. He talks as if God is a real deity that could actually control the hurricane. But why would an atheist talk in such a way? Why give any credit to God at all? Why entertain the notion that God exists, let alone could do anything about the storm?
Consider a couple of the verses that indicate God is in full authority over all that takes place on the earth, even nature:
“His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet” (Nahum 1:3).
“He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter His lightning. They turn around and around by His guidance, to accomplish all that He commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for His land or for love, He causes it to happen.“ (Job 37:11-13)
You can read other verses such as: Psalm 104; Psalm 147:8-9,14-18; 148:1-12; Job 9:5-10; 26:7-14; 37:2-24; 38:8-41; Jeremiah 10:12-13; 14:22; Amos 4:7; and Mark 4:39-41.
Max Lucado wrote an article in which he reminds us that God is not surprised by hurricanes because He is in control of the weather:
“Natural disasters may surprise us, but they do not surprise God. Is God sovereign over the hurricane? Is he mightier than your problem? Does he have answers to your questions? According to the Bible, the answer is yes, yes, and yes! ‘God…is the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters’ (1Tim. 6:15, Phillips). If he sustains all and controls all, don’t you think he has authority over this situation you face?”
And, Sam Storms, writing at Crosswalk.com reminded us that God is sovereign, but also that His ways are not like ours and we might not understand Gods purposes in a natural disaster:
“He can himself send devastation. Or he may permit Satan to wreak havoc in the earth. Yes he can, if he chooses, intervene and prevent a hurricane, an earthquake, a tsunami, and all other natural disasters. In the end, we do not know why he makes one choice and not another.”
For me, natural disasters don’t diminish my faith in God. If anything, they remind me that God is there, sovereignly ruling over what I am powerless to control. Natural disasters remind me of how small I am and how big God is. I’m thankful for a sovereign God that is touched by the prayers of His people.