‘Tis the season for hurricanes and tropical storms. Coming from a resident of Southern Ontario in Canada, I have very little understanding of what that means. Although not long ago, I guess, we’ve experienced heavy winds and a few tornado touchdowns… but nothing quite like a category 4 or 5 hurricane ripping through a coastal city. At least not in my lifetime.
But my heart breaks for those affected by Harvey, Irma, and Katia. Jose is out there somewhere too. And Mexico’s strongest earthquake in a century hit last week, leaving almost a hundred dead and thousands displaced from their homes. Add to that, the largest wildfire in the history of British Columbia is spreading into Alberta, causing devastation in its path. These are but a few of the many disastrous natural phenomena happening globally.
Certainly, the quantity and intensity of these natural disasters are alarming. And when anything tragic like this happens, we humans have a tendency to seek for answers. What is causing these storms to occur in such succession? Are all these disasters due to global warming? Is it simply because we are in the season for hurricanes? On and on it goes…
Some have answers. Scientists and meteorologists have answers. But they aren’t the only ones to give them. Those in the religious world offer answers too. And some of them jump to announce that this calamity is a judgment from God.
I remember the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. Maybe you do as well. Well, I also remember hearing a televangelist announcing to the world that this was a judgment from God upon the nation of Haiti due to their spiritual practices. When I heard that, I’ve got to be honest… I was angry. I was angry because we were hearing about thousands of people dying. We were hearing about families being torn apart. We were hearing about cities left in utter ruins. And that was a first response from the Christian perspective?
Notice I didn’t say “the” first response. I am proud to say that judgment isn’t the only first response from my fellow followers of Jesus… There are others from the Christian world whose initial response is compassion and they jump in to help in whatever way they can.
A woman from my church was in Haiti in 2010 to serve on a mobile clinic team visiting poor rural areas. Not long after the team arrived, the earthquake struck and one of the team members died. Yvonne Martin was a retired nurse and she gave her life to serve those she loved. She had the heartbeat of God inside of her.
Now for people like my fellow Christian televangelist, though I respect his ministry and agree with many other things he preaches, this perspective of judgment from God, I must disagree with.
But I get it… this world can be a dark place. The existence of the sex trade, the growing violence, the rampant racism, and the widening chasm between the elite wealthy and the poor… It’s a call for justice in a world of great injustice.
Is there an answer?
Straight up… I do not believe that the God I read about in the New Testament coincides with the God that some of my brothers and sisters proclaim when storms come.
In Jesus, I see compassion for the poor (Matt 14). In Jesus, I see the breakdown of racial boundaries (John 4). In Jesus, I see a God who is in the storm with His people (Mark 4).
Jesus paints a very different portrait of God than some of us do. A God who cares. A God who loves. A God who walks with us through the storms.
In John 8:12, Jesus says this…
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Yes, this world is dark. I think it’s been that way for a long long time.
There has not been a single century in human history that didn’t have a major military conflict.
But in Jesus, we see a God who says, “I am the light… follow me and you will have that light too. Shine it for all to see.”
Matthew 5:14 is one of my favorite verses. It serves as a reminder that I am called to be a light bearing follower of Jesus.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.”
This is a calling for followers of Jesus to be light in this hard time. Our primary calling isn’t to bring an answer, it’s to simply show the love of God in the midst of all the chaos that goes on in this world.
Then when we do speak, our primary response should be to speak life and not death. To speak hope and not condemnation.