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Is Hurricane Sandy the judgment of God?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A workman cuts a tree in pieces after it fell on top of a car in Hoboken, New Jersey, October 29, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/Gary Hershorn)

“This is the most catastrophic event that we have faced and been able to plan for in any of our lifetimes,” Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy said of Hurricane Sandy.  Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley warned yesterday that “people will die in this storm.”  Tragically, he was right.  Sixteen are dead; an estimated 7.5 million people are without power this morning.

Why has Hurricane Sandy been so severe?  Is this God’s judgment against the Northeast, as some are claiming, or does the storm have a more natural explanation?

Meteorologists say that “Frankenstorm” is the combination of a hurricane that collided with a winter storm, a cold front, and high tides from a full moon.  The resulting hybrid storm has affected more than 60 million people.  The cost of the storm is expected to exceed $20 billion.  At least 50 homes in Queens were destroyed by a six-alarm fire.  Lower Manhattan was swamped; government offices in Washington, D.C. remain closed this morning.

Before we decide that the hurricane is God’s judgment on the Northeast, we might consider those it has already affected.  I’ve been to Cuba six times and find the believers there among the strongest on earth.  More than a million Cubans have come to Christ in the last decade.  Yet Hurricane Sandy killed at least 11 Cubans and left thousands homeless.  One of the pastors on the island called our office yesterday.  He wept as he described the worst devastation he has seen in his lifetime.  Is the hurricane God’s judgment on these suffering people?

In my view, we should be slow to attribute natural events to supernatural causes.  As the result of Adam and Eve’s sin, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22).  In the Garden of Eden there would have been no hurricanes or earthquakes.  God clearly caused Noah’s Flood and the plagues in Egypt, but most of the natural disasters we experience are the result of living in a fallen world.

While the Fall caused Hurricane Sandy, God stands ready to redeem all he allows.  When Jesus’ disciples were battling a storm of their own, their Master walked on wind-tossed waves to their battered boat (Matthew 14:22-25).  When the winds died down, “Those who were in the boat worshiped him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God'” (v. 33).

Today Jesus’ followers are his hands and feet (1 Corinthians 12:27).  Hurricane Sandy is our opportunity to go to those in the storm, proving the relevance of our faith by our compassion.  How will you pray for those affected by this disaster?  How will you give money and time to relief efforts?  Who will see God’s love in yours?