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Where’s God in the Storm?

In August and September of 2005, two major hurricanes hit the southern coast of the United States over the course of just three weeks. Hurricane Katrina flooded the city of New Orleans and destroyed numerous cities and towns along the coastal regions of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. Hurricane Rita hit many of the same areas with intense rains and winds.

If we’re honest, we admit to wondering where God was in all of the destruction, displacement and despair caused by those fierce storms. Why didn’t he stop one or the other of the storms? Why didn’t he diminish the force of the winds and lessen the amount of rain that fell? Why didn’t he direct the second hurricane away from the area that had already suffered so much? Why didn’t he move government officials to act more quickly to address the horrendous needs of thousands of people waiting for days in shelters without food or water?

As believer’s we need to process our questions by taking them prayerfully to God’s word. We need to seek truth in the only place it is to be found.

Just what does the Bible say about God’s role in natural disasters and the human suffering they cause?

Consider these principles gleaned from Scripture:

1. Natural disasters and suffering are a part of life in a fallen world. As a result of Adam’s rebellion against God, all of creation came under a curse. (Genesis 3:17; Romans 8:19-22) When God finished creating the world and its inhabitants, it was very good. After Adam’s rebellion, though, the physical forces necessary to create destructive natural disasters became a part of the earth’s environment. For example, before Noah’s flood, the earth probably had a thick canopy of water vapor that made the climate uniform everywhere. There were no warm and cold ocean currents or high and low atmospheric pressures. The physical components that make a hurricane form did not exist in the world as God originally created it.
2. Even though, natural disasters came into being as a result of the fall, God uses them to accomplish his redemptive purposes. Sometimes a storm or famine can be a sign of God’s judgment on his people. This was the case in the Old Testament period and will be so in the years just prior to the return of Christ. (Psalm 135:6-7; Matthew 8:23-27 and Ephesians 1:11)
3. God uses the trials and sufferings brought into the lives of his children by natural disasters to refine and strengthen their faith. Just as muscles become stronger when they are stressed, so does our faith in God get stronger when we face hardships. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
4. As God’s children weather serious traumas in their lives and minister to others in the midst of them, it provides opportunities for the light of the gospel to shine into the spiritual darkness of the world. In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul commends the members of the Macedonian church for their generous giving for the relief of the suffering Christians in Jerusalem. In 9:12-13 he says, “The ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God.” (ESV)

Since, according to scripture, we can expect hard times in life, we believers need to be prepared to face natural disasters and other traumas in a way that will accomplish God’s purposes in our own lives and glorify him in the world at large.

Consider how these actions might form a spiritual disaster preparedness plan:

1. We must know God. We must prepare ourselves for trials by diligent study of scripture. Only as we understand God’s holiness, power and love will we be able to thrive in a time of testing. 2 Peter 1:2-4 encourages us that we have “everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (Emphasis added)
2. Trials and suffering make us seek God. When things are going well, we tend to forget that we need him. When either literal or figurative hurricanes hit, we run to him for refuge and help. God will use any means available to him to get us to focus on him, rather than on the world. Notice what God says in Hosea 5:15. “I [God] will go away and return to My place. Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.” (NASB) Check out Psalm 119:67 also.
3. A believer needs to face every experience in life as part of God’s sovereign plan. God may use suffering and trials as discipline (Hebrews 12:7-11). Or, he may use them to strengthen and refine our faith. (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9). He also teaches us that he is a source of great comfort through our troubled times. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
4. We also need to develop an eternal perspective on life. Paul considered his suffering to be minor in comparison to the spiritual stamina and knowledge of God it developed in him. He understood that his suffering was accomplishing eternal progress in his own life and in the lives of those he preached to and taught. An eternal perspective will help us keep our heads and establish godly priorities when we face great loss or suffering. (2 Corinthians 4:7-8, 17-18)

Romans 8:28 is God’s promise that he will never waste a moment of pain in our lives. With that promise in mind, it is clear that as we submit to God as our ultimate authority, provider and protector will we have what we need to weather any storm that he sends our way. David understood this and wrote these words in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

God promises to be with us in the times when we are most afraid, and God never fails to keep his promises. He is powerful enough to carry us through trials and storms. He is also powerful enough to direct storms away from us. Whichever he chooses to do in any given situation is an expression of his incomprehensible, sacrificial love for us. We may never understand why certain things happen, but we can rely on the person who is absolutely sovereign over every single circumstance in our personal lives and in the history of the world.

Paul learned to trust in the sufficiency of God through incredible seasons of suffering. He had a firm disaster preparedness plan in place. He stated it in Romans 8:38-39. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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