One of the most vivid examples of an individual submitting to the will of God in the face of personal disaster and hardships is found in the story of Job in the Bible. Job lost all of his personal wealth and most of his family to natural disasters, which included a terrible fire and a windstorm. His response to these horrific events was to say about God in Job 9:12-17, “If he snatches someone in death, who can stop him? Who dares to ask, ‘What are you doing?’ And God does not restrain his anger. Even the monsters of the sea are crushed beneath his feet. “So who am I, that I should try to answer God or even reason with him? Even if I were right, I would have no defense. I could only plead for mercy. And even if I summoned him and he responded, I’m not sure he would listen to me. For He attacks me with a storm and repeatedly wounds me without cause.” Job’s submission to God was to admit that God, in His wisdom and power could “break” him without any cause at all. He went on to say in Job 12:13-15, “But true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are his. What he destroys cannot be rebuilt. When he puts someone in prison, there is no escape. If he holds back the rain, the earth becomes a desert. If he releases the waters, they flood the earth.” The same is true for us when we face difficult events like personal tragedies and natural disasters. God’s purpose in allowing such events may not be meant for us to understand, rather they are opportunities for us to submit to the will of God and find His purposes within the turmoil.
All of us watched as Hurricane Matthew devastated the western regions of Haiti. and then moved on through the Bahamas and the eastern coastline of Florida. When we see the incredible images from an impoverished country like Haiti that show devastation against people who have no way of protecting themselves or hope for recovering, many people around the world cry out, “Where is God in all of this?” The answer to this question is an age old question posed by every person at some point in their life. The answer is not an easy one because of our limited understanding of God Himself. Job provides us with a perspective that represents those who believe in an all powerful, all knowing God, whose motives and actions cannot always be understood by us, but in whom we trust completely by faith, to always act in our best interests. People, who do not share our belief in the God of Creation, like to use disasters, such as a hurricane, to illustrate their belief that a loving God could never allow such terrible things to happen.
Maybe as you observed the terrible cost of Hurricane Matthew, especially when it impacts people who have so little, you too have wondered about God’s presence in the tragedies that take place in the world. It seems humanly unthinkable that people who have so little should suffer so much. A catastrophic event like a major hurricane only reminds us again of the reality and certainty of suffering and death. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 “So that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven; for his sun gives light to the evil and to the good, and he sends rain on the upright man and on the sinner.” In other words natural events impact good people and bad people, old and young alike, there is no distinction. Jesus in fact, went out of his way to identify with lepers, the lame, the blind and other victims of tragic circumstance, insisting that far from deserving punishment, such persons were deserving of love and respect. I believe that is what we can find in this terrible tragedy, people who need our love and help.
As for me, I choose to accept the authority of God in this world and trust in Him times of blessing and in times of tribulation. I realize that whether it is the result of a hurricane, a fire or a flood, people are going to endure suffering. I hold on to the realization that no matter what the circumstances, God cares for me and will help me face whatever comes my way. God promised his people in Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” The Bible is full of God’s promises to be with us through times of tribulation and sorrow. I hope you have placed your faith in God though His Son Jesus Christ who loves you and gave his life for you on the cross, because if you have, you know that God, and God alone can sustain you through life’s storms.
We need to pray for the light of the Gospel to replace the present suffering and sorrow in the country of Haiti, and all of those who experienced great loss, and may we renew our efforts to provide for the needs of people who have so little and have been hurt so much. I believe that God can use a moment in time like a devastating hurricane, to allow Christians to minister to people in the name of Jesus, and replace the darkness and suffering with light and truth. There are many days ahead full of sorrow and difficulties for them and the other victims of this storm, but if we respond not only with the purpose of meeting the humanitarian needs of the people of Haiti, but also to come against the evil which has controlled so much of this nation for so long, we can perhaps see God change an entire nation forever.