Hurricane Dorian turned north overnight and is about one hundred miles off of Florida’s east coast this morning. At least seven people were killed in the Bahamas; dozens are still being rescued from floodwaters.
The Category 2 storm, with winds of 110 mph, is lashing central Florida’s east coast today. Flash floods and a life-threatening storm surge are expected. More than two million people in Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina have been warned to evacuate.
Not everyone is leaving, however. Employees of the Hunkerdown Hideaway in downtown Cocoa Beach, Florida, vow to remain open “till the police shut us down.” Some say that the expense of evacuating and the income they would miss make leaving almost impossible for them.
Their dilemma could be solved if they knew where (or if) the hurricane would strike land. It’s an astounding fact in our day of remarkable technological sophistication that such vital and practical information is unavailable to those who need it most.
How many people work for the National Weather Service?
Our problem is not that our best people aren’t doing their best. The National Weather Service employs 2,600 operational meteorologists and hydrologists; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2019 budget exceeds $5 billion.
And yet, using the most advanced technology in history, our best meteorological scientists are still unable to predict the precise path of a hurricane. The consequences of this fact are staggering.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates government costs for hurricanes at $28 billion a year. Coastal shoreline counties generate 40 percent of America’s jobs and are responsible for 46 percent of our gross domestic product.
Clearly, our best experts are doing all they can. But their limits show us our own.
“Life has never been normal”
Researchers predict that cancer will become the leading cause of death in the US by next year. And yet the National Cancer Institute’s budget for this year is $5.74 billion. As the father of a cancer survivor and the son of a cancer victim, I wish it were more.
My point is that disasters and diseases demonstrate the finitude of fallen humans.
We can do so much more in the world than ever before. For instance, distributing this article without email would require $90,000 in postage and would render today’s column outdated by the time it arrived in your physical mailbox.
But the issues that matter most are beyond our capacity to influence or even predict. I don’t know if I’ll be alive to write Thursday’s Daily Article; you don’t know if you’ll be alive to read it if I do.
In this sense, the unpredictability and devastation of Hurricane Dorian is nothing new on our fallen planet. What C. S. Lewis said of war can be said of a hurricane: It “creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. . . . We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life.’ Life has never been normal.”
“The wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
When we face a foe stronger than we are, it’s wise to trust in a power stronger than it is.
Scripture says of the Lord: “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth” (Jeremiah 10:12–13).
When Jesus “rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!'” here’s what happened: “The wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39). The God who parted the Red Sea and stopped the flooded Jordan River is more powerful than Dorian or any other disaster.
Of course, it’s human nature to ask why this omnipotent God didn’t stop Dorian from devastating the Bahamas. When our son was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I asked the Lord why he didn’t answer my daily prayers for Ryan’s health. Eventually, I came to peace with the fact we discussed yesterday: my fallen mind cannot comprehend God’s “higher” thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8–9), so turning from my Father when I need him most only makes suffering worse.
For today, let’s consider that the unpredictability and danger of natural disasters and diseases should remind us daily of our frailty and limitations. The more advanced our technology becomes, the more tempting our hubris.
“Living your life as an offering of thanksgiving”
What Hurricane Dorian does this week is beyond our control. But how we respond to that fact is not.
When we remember that this world is not our home and that all we “own” actually belongs to the One who made it, we are free to live for heaven on earth and trust the results to our Father.
Curtis Almquist of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist offers this advice: “All these things which you could call your ‘possessions’ – both the tangible and intangible – give them up. I’m not saying to disregard them or devalue them. Quite to the contrary, I’m speaking of ‘giving them up’ like an offering, acknowledging to God how God has entrusted you with them, temporarily. In the ancient vocabulary of the church, this is called ‘an oblation,’ living your life as an offering, an offering of thanksgiving.”
Will you offer your oblation to God today?