Storm Clouds and Blessings
As I was flipping through radio stations during my morning drive today, I paused when I heard one DJ say the word “blessing.” What made me stop and listen was that I wasn't skipping through “Christian” stations, and so I was surprised to hear that word. I listened as the speaker emphasized that, when Hurricane Matthew “bobbled” and spared the Treasure Coast area the worst of the storm last year, it was a “blessing” to us. By speaking of those events as a blessing, she seemed to mean that it was an unexpected and fortunate turn of events – for us, at least. Not so for the people of the Carolinas.
So as Harvey passes, leaving a wake of destruction to the west of us, and as Irma gears up with a gaze fixed on South Florida, I fear that our hearts once again are tempted to interpret weather patterns as the direct judgment of God. There are those speaking in the name of Christ who will specify for what sins and atrocities these storms come to judge. And their words have a ring of the prophetic spirit about them. Did not God send hail on Egypt? Locusts on Ninevah? All manner of judgments on Israel? Floods over all the earth in the days of Noah? Does he not still control the winds and waves and judge sin?
Yes. But let us not forget that when God used such events as a judgment on a nation or a people in Scripture, he did so while first announcing it in his inspired Word, through his prophets. Weather as divine judgment is not the norm, but the exception; and it is God's Word that must interpret our circumstances, not our circumstances that dictate God's Word.
So how do we interpret the clouds that gather off our coast?
We affirm that the winds and the waves obey God's command (Mark 4:41). We recall that God sends rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). We remember that the storm strikes the house of both wise and the foolish builders (Luke 6:46-49). We keep in mind that God's people support and minister to one another during such times, even from a great distance (just as Paul raised funds during his travels to relieve famine-stricken Christians back home in Judea, see Romans 15:25-26). And we stand firm in the knowledge that no devastation, no loss, no pain, and no circumstances can ever separate God's children from his love and blessing in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39).
So is it wrong to pray for safety for our loved ones and our property? Is it wrong to pray that we would be spared the devastation such a storm brings? Certainly not, and we all pray to that end. But we also know that, should those prayers not be answered in the way we want, it is not because God failed to “bless us with a bobble.” The God who controls every raindrop says that his ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The storm will come, and perhaps many after it. Some will hit our homes, some will move and hit other homes. But the reason cannot be simply explained as God's judgment or blessing on any specific family, city, state, or people. And our understanding of God's blessing can never be anchored to the weather, but rather to the assurance of a salvation that can never be taken away from us.