Why Did Florence Turn South?
Praying is relatively easy. While some of us may be more comfortable than others when it comes to putting our thoughts into words, we can usually think of something to say to God.
It’s God’s answer to our prayers that challenge us.
Just a few days ago Hurricane Florence was taking aim at Virginia. The region where I live wasn’t in the eye of the storm, but we were definitely going to feel its destructive power. On Monday I stopped at a local grocery to stock up on water. The place was packed with nervous shoppers. That night I prayed for God to spare us the worst.
And He did.
Not only did God spare us, but as you know a high-pressure system blocked Florence from coming our way and sent it spiraling in the opposite direction. Some local forecasters said the hurricane’s change in course was “bizarre.” That’s a word people use to explain away their mistaken predictions. But, it was unusual and unexpected.
Then, our friends in the Carolinas took the brunt. As thankful as we are for our circumstances, we cannot freely rejoice because others are suffering. Had the storm turned out to sea we could all celebrate. But instead, we are left scratching our heads, and doing what we can to ease the pain of others.
Did God really spare us, or were we just the fortunate recipients of a strange weather phenomenon? Did people in the Carolinas forget to pray? Or did God dismiss their prayers because of something they did wrong? Were they being punished? If we are merely subject to meteorological conditions, then why pray? Or if God is going to do what He has planned to do in spite of our prayers, then why bother?
This subject is much too complex to sufficiently answer in a small devotion. But I thought it might be helpful to offer a basic framework of understanding.
God can and has “caused” natural disasters to influence human history, but only on very rare occasions. The great flood in the time of Noah is a good example. For the most part, God “allows” disasters to occur. While we may not see much difference between causing and allowing, the distinction is important. We live in a broken world that is suffering physically as well as spiritually as a consequence of sinful human choices. In His wisdom God allows the resulting bad things to happen to good people, including things like hurricanes.
I’ll be honest. I don’t like the fact that anything bad is allowed to happen to anyone who doesn’t deserve it. But I trust God’s heart and I am not going to reject Him because I disagree with something He has allowed.
Within the spectrum of the things God has allowed, there is also evidence He will change our circumstances based on our personal prayers and choices. God doesn’t have to perform a miracle, or work outside of natural processes to bring about such changes. He has the ability to move in people’s hearts and “nudge” events in our lives to help us. His help might be as simple as showing us how we can help ourselves. Or it might involve a series of events involving people, places and things that could not possibly be a coincidence.
Back to Hurricane Florence.
I don’t believe God saved us from harm and allowed our friends in Carolina to suffer. Need I remind us all, the hurricane season isn’t over.
Instead, I believe God “allowed” us to escape the storm through a natural weather pattern, as strange as it might have been. He could have intervened and lifted the high-pressure system that protected us. I am thankful He let “nature takes its course” (the nature He created, which has been corrupted by the entrance of sin in our world).
I don’t believe God “caused” the storm to hit the Carolinas, and I know for certain there were many people praying for Him to intervene. In His wisdom He “allowed” it. I don’t understand why. I don’t like it. But I’m not going to get stuck in my response to it. There is too much to be done.
I do know this: God walks with us through the things He allows. So please don’t believe for a moment God has abandoned the people of the Carolinas. In fact, He is walking with them in their darkest moments. He is there in the flood waters, in the hospitals and in the funeral homes. He loves them and will not desert them in their time of need.
What about us?
I believe God “allowed” us to escape harm so we can follow His will by being instruments of His mercy for those He has “allowed” to suffer. We have a choice. God isn’t going to make us help others. But I believe He is going to give us the opportunity and the ability to do so, because I believe it is His will.
It’s ok to thank God for “allowing” us to escape the storm.
Just remember why He did it. He did it so we would answer His prompting to care for our world. God didn’t permit us to escape because we are better people. He did so in order to put us in a better position to help others.
I have no doubt there are those in the Carolinas praying right now for God to send someone to help them. I believe He has already chosen to intervene through us. He will do it through our gifts, and perhaps later, through the work of our hands.
If these prayers of our friends in Carolina aren’t answered, don’t blame God.
We hold His answer in the palm of our hands.