The worst hurricane to strike the East Coast in a century has claimed more than 20 lives across eight states. As of this morning, the U.S. government estimates that the cost from wind damage alone will exceed $1 billion. Downed power lines have left more than four million people without electricity.
Such innocent suffering is the toughest theological issue Christians face. Our King is all-knowing–he saw the storm before it began to form in the Atlantic. He is all-powerful–the One who “rebuked the wind and waves, and it was completely calm” (Matthew 8:26) could have stilled Irene. He is all-loving–he grieves every loss caused by this tragedy. And yet he permitted the devastation he now mourns.
Why? I understand the existence of hurricanes in principle–as a result of the Fall, “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). When humanity fell, all of creation was affected. Hurricanes, tornadoes, disaster and disease did not exist before Adam’s sin. Such tragedies were not part of God’s design for our planet. That’s why he will one day replace our fallen world with “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).
What I don’t understand is why this hurricane was allowed to devastate so many people. If I were God, I would have pushed Irene out to sea and spared the East Coast such suffering. But if I were God, you’d have far more than hurricanes to worry about. I can only trust his “good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2) and claim the fact that he redeems all he allows.
Here’s an insight into such redemption I had never considered before. A longtime friend emailed me last week after I wrote an essay that included the miracle of Jesus’ walking on the stormy Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:22-33). This event followed the feeding of the 5,000 (vs. 13-21). My friend noted Mark’s version of the miracle, which tells us that the disciples “were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves” (Mark 6:51-52).
Here’s his comment: “I am so much like the disciples. I could learn from watching Jesus work in others’ lives, but I seldom do. I only realize his power, and what blessings he can provide, when I personally get into difficulty and he comes to my aid. I don’t enjoy adversity, but I seem to need it in order to draw closer to him.”
I am like my friend. Mother Teresa was right: “You’ll never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” What storm is God using to teach you his sufficiency today?