After hurricanes, other natural disasters, and acts of terrorism, someone inevitably asks, "Where is God?" What they're really asking is, "How can a loving God allow such horrific pain and suffering to happen?"
So often columnists venture upon divine judgment or the harsh consequences of living in a fallen world. We'll leave such weighty matters to learned theologians. What occurred to me, though, was the story of Elijah looking for God in a whirlwind, an earthquake and a fire.
You recall, Elijah had been sitting in a dark cave of despair, fearful for his life, lamenting how his once-successful career as a prophet had taken such a tragic turn. In I Kings 19, Queen Jezebel is in pursuit, threatening to kill him in retaliation for obliterating the prophets of Baal. Parenthetically, Elijah is inquiring, "Where is God now?"
He cries out, "The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." In a strange reply, God tells him to go stand on a mountain, where He will "pass by."
Elijah looks for God in a whirlwind, an earthquake, and a fire—three powerful, destructive forces. But he doesn't find God there. Instead, he finds God's presence in a gentle whisper that follows them.
Sometimes, it's really hard for us to see God's presence when we're in the middle of the tempest, when life's powerful storms assail us. Too often, we're overwhelmed by tremendous tragedy and heartache. Only after the tempest subsides, after we've come through the turmoil, that we're able to look back and see where God's presence has "passed by," and he's walked with us all the while.
So, where is God in a hurricane?
When hurricanes, like Florence, appear on the horizon, we're grateful that we live in a time in which God has given us the ability to somewhat see into the future. Days in advance, weather forecasters warn us that a hurricane is out there, menacing in the deep, long before the first dark clouds appear along the shore.
We're grateful God has given us some tremendous minds who've created technological marvels like weather and communication satellites to track hurricanes, giving us wondrous pictures on our "pocket screens" of the massive size and destructive power of approaching storms.
We're grateful God has given us some with adventuresome spirits and astonishing bravery who chase mighty storms in planes to drop wind-speed detection tools inside the eye. Their risky work potentially lowers the number of fatalities by providing critical information and photos they've collected out in the field, long before turbulent winds, torrential rains and flash flooding hit.
But where we stand most amazed is how almost immediately after mighty storms, God sends countless "Good Samaritans" into the affected areas to help devastated victims pick up their shattered lives. We're grateful for disaster relief volunteers who eagerly rush to the scene to pick up broken limbs, clear away fallen debris, remove moldy sheetrock, haul away soggy furnishings, and gladly cook meals to feed masses. Through them, God's presence is on grand display!