Natural disasters like hurricanes Harvey and Irma always lead us to reflect on God’s protection in our lives, and His role on the course of the natural world.
Of course, we begin by giving thanks for God’s unending care and provision. The apostle Paul reminds us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” (I Thess. 5:16-18a) Notice, by the way, that we are told to give thanks in ALL circumstances, whether they are favorable or not. It’s easy to be thankful when the family is safe, there’s food to eat and AC to sleep in! The struggle comes in learning to give thanks in more challenging circumstances.
There is a subtle twist of this that makes me cringe, even though I know it is said with the best of intentions. When one person credits God with sparing them in the storm, what is being said about those not spared? While it is good and necessary to give thanks, we should also remember that God cares equally for all His children. God does not divert a storm away from one area only to hit another area. Tragedy is not a sign of God’s displeasure or lack of protection.
It should go without saying that natural disasters are not God’s judgment on this or that town or people. Katrina was not God’s judgment on New Orleans, Harvey was not God’s judgment on Houston. Irma was not God’s judgment on Cuba or the Keys or any other place similarly devastated. We have a creation in which things like hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, droughts, floods, etc. happen. God does not sit in heaven thinking, “that town could use a good disaster.” That is the vision of the petulent and mercurial ancient Greek and Roman gods, not the loving God of Judeo-Christian faith and teaching.
It helps as we walk this path to remember that God’s purpose is not our ease or comfort. Challenging those who sought to follow him to count the cost, Jesus said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” God’s purpose is that we be restored to him and nothing less!
So we give thanks, but mostly we give thanks for a God who is concerned not just for our comfort but for our eternal home!
This column is from the St. John’s eNews for September 17, 2017. Click here for the complete edition.
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