God in the Storm
- Thursday, September 08, 2005
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina once again raises questions about the goodness and power of God. These are not easy questions, and not just any answer will suffice. If we are to understand how to think rightly about God and the storm, we must look to the testimony of Scripture.
In Job 37, Elihu, one of Job's friends, speaks to him: "Out of the south comes the storm, and out of the north the cold. From the breath of God ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen. Also with moisture He loads the thick cloud; he disperses the cloud of His lightning. It changes direction, turning around by His guidance, that it may do whatever He commands it on the face of the inhabited earth, whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen." [Job 37:9-13]
At the end of the book of Job, God rebukes three of Job's friends for making inaccurate statements both about Job's suffering and about God. Elihu, however, is not rebuked. Elihu spoke truthfully, saying to Job, in effect, "Look, you cannot take God out of this equation. You cannot say God is not in the storm. He is." Throughout the Bible, but particularly in the book of Job, we are reminded that we simply do not have the option of saying that God is somehow not involved. If we say we believe in the sovereignty of God, we must believe that God is always and everywhere sovereign--even over the storm.
The playwright Archibald MacLeish wrote a work entitled, J.B., which was a modern rendering of the book of Job. In that play is the famous line, "If God is good, He is not God. If God is God, He is not good." This is the equation many people are wrestling with today: If God is sovereign, and if He controls every atom and molecule of the universe, then how in the face of so many evils can modern human beings affirm that He is good? On the other hand, if we believe that God is good, then He must not be in control. He must not be able to keep these things from happening, and therefore, He is not the all-powerful God of the Bible. In the end, it is asserted, if God is God, then He is not good; but if God is good, then He is not God.
As Christians, we must be able to give a biblical answer to these questions. Unfortunately--but inevitably--there are several bad answers that have been offered in an attempt to handle these issues. One of the most common is this: "God is doing the best He can under the circumstances."
In 1981, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner published a book entitled, When Bad Things Happen to Good People? Kushner's answer to his own question was that it is because God simply cannot help it. He cannot stop evil. Essentially, God is a God of limited power, doing the best He can under the circumstances, and therefore, we should just trust Him to do all He can to prevent evil. Of course, we might wish He could do better, but finally, there is only so much that God can do. When a person faces a dread disease or a storm, an earthquake, or a tsunami, his only course of action is simply to believe that God is doing the very best He can do and to know that God really could not have kept this from happening. After all, if God could have kept it from happening, He would have done so.
A second inadequate answer when we ponder God and the storm is to say, as some might, "Sure, God could have stopped this, but He did not do so because He has an evil intent. Our days are numbered, and He is going to get us all one way or another. Cancer for one person, an earthquake for another. Life in the end is meaningless, and God is like the Hindu deity Shiva, the Destroyer."
Both of those arguments fall infinitely short of the biblical testimony. The God of the Bible cannot be described as "doing the very best He can do under the circumstances." Nor can one read the Bible and seriously affirm that God is a God of evil. He is a God of love and of mercy, a God of holiness.
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