Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on September 22, 2017
The hurricane names of 2017 seemed harmless enough when I first saw them: Harvey, Irma, Maria. Today, these names will always be associated with some of the most devastating storms in modern history. And with nine weeks of hurricane season remaining, we must pray that Philippe, Sean, Tammy, and Whitney do not join this list of infamy.
I can only imagine the terror of being caught in the middle of a great hurricane (or tornado). In the helplessness and despair of the moment, crying out to God may be all that one can do. So, where is God in the hurricane? If God is all-powerful and all-loving, how can He allow these hurricanes to destroy lives and even demolish island nations that may never recover? And if it is useless to cry out to God in the midst of hurricanes, does it matter if we pray at all?
Indeed, these are important questions with no easy answers. Scientists tell us how and why these devastating storms happen in the physical realm, but maybe scripture offers insight into the metaphysical realities of our world and the storms we face.
The Apostle Paul in Romans 8 talks about the “sufferings of this present time.” He suggests that creation continues to “groan and suffer the pains of childbirth.” He says that creation is “subject to futility” and longs to be set free from its “slavery to corruption.”
The hope for creation, however, is proclaimed in Revelation 21 with a “new heaven and a new earth.” In that place there will be no more sea, or death, or pain.
Could these verses offer the picture of a creation in the future that will be set free from its futility and corruption, where it will no longer groan and suffer the pains of childbirth? But, in the meantime, creation groans, earthquakes rumble, tornadoes destroy, and hurricanes devastate. Thus, Paul offers an invitation to discover hope.
In our weakness and sufferings we should pray. And when our groanings are too deep for words, the Spirit of God searches our hearts and minds and offers prayers on our behalf. The promise of scripture is not that we will be spared from the “hurricanes” of life, but rather, that God will be with us before, during, and after those storms.
The sufferings we encounter then become the focal point of God’s redemptive work, causing all things, even the sufferings of life, to work together for good to those who love and trust Him. Paul is so convinced of this truth that he proclaims that no sufferings “shall separate us from God’s love, which is found in Christ Jesus our Lord” and that even in the midst of our sufferings we can be confident that “we overwhelmingly conquer through Jesus.”
The hurricanes of recent days have caused immense and even unprecedented amounts of sufferings. We have also seen incredible acts of grace, love and generosity. Yes, there is still much work before us. People and places are in need of redeeming and rebuilding. We all have the opportunity to join the good work of God by giving, going, and/or welcoming the displaced.
Let us give thanks that God continues to work in the sufferings of this present time. And, in the midst of our storms, let us continue to offer our prayers and groanings to God so that His love and good work of redemption will find its way to overwhelmingly conquer in and through us, even when the storms we experience have our name on them.
Dr. Wade Smith