Showing the state of our nation in the light of God’s Holy Word

SURVEYING THE SANDY SCENE

An Article by Robin Lane

Much has been written about Hurricane Sandy since it hit the USA on Monday 29th October. Online conversations ranged from ‘God bless’ (those who were in the hurricane’s path) to ‘God does not exist’; and one reporter noted that science, humour and venom were all used to question religion – or at least the idea of blaming the storm on God [1]. Yet such a major event is bound to bring a fundamental question back to mind: ‘Why has such an awful thing happened?’

For some the answer will be that there is no answer, no reason behind it. Others will say that it was just another natural event that will take its place in history – it had nothing to do with God. Still others will put it down to climate change and call for urgent action to combat the effects of modern life on the planet. Yet there are many who will not be content with answers such as these. For people who believe in God the question becomes: ‘What was God doing in all of this?’

A Question for Believers

Those who believe in the God of the Bible have good reason to consider this question. Scattered throughout the Scriptures are statements that we should think carefully about things and take notice of what happens. Just four examples from the English Standard Version are:

1 – “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD …” (Isaiah 1:18).
2 – “Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways.” (Haggai 1:5).
3 – “Take care then how you hear …” (Luke 8:18).
4 – ‘Note then the kindness and the severity of God …’ (Romans 11:22).

These and many other Scriptures indicate that believers are to use their ability to think things through – contrary to the accusation of ‘just believing’ that is thrown at us by many critics.

First Things First

Before attempting to think this question through, let’s acknowledge that for many people this was a tragedy. Latest reports indicate that Sandy killed more than 90 people in the USA, having previously killed nearly 70 in the Caribbean [2]. In addition to these deaths, many have been injured, thousands have lost property, millions have been very frightened, and it will probably take weeks to assess the total cost. So first, our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have suffered in this storm. May they soon know the comfort that only God himself can give; and may those who are seeking to help them financially and spiritually be granted much success [3], [4].

Discerning the Cause

So what was God doing in all of this? Even believers will give different answers to this question. Some say that these events are due to the way in which God created the world, and that there is no direct link to God. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) described this idea as one of ‘secondary causes’; but he also acknowledged that God is sometimes directly involved, that God is sometimes the primary cause [5]. So first we need to think about whether God was the primary cause of Hurricane Sandy.

No Ordinary Event

One thing is obvious, this storm was no ordinary weather event; it was not a ‘routine’ hurricane. Several major weather systems came together. Tropical storm Sandy met a Jet Stream from the North and then another cold weather front from the West collided with it. These three weather systems came together when it was full moon; which meant that tides were already high, and the 14 foot storm surge that hit New York was a record breaker that caused a record amount of damage [6]. But does this give it a special meaning? For the Bible reveals God to be purposeful. So, if he sent this storm, there must have been a divine purpose behind it.

A Matter of Judgment

And this is where we must be careful; for it is easy to bring our own prejudices into an explanation of God’s purposes [7]. However, we do know that the wrath of God is being revealed (Romans 1:18). Therefore we should not be intimidated into inappropriate silence. We should acknowledge that God is Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25) and that sometimes, even before the final day of judgment, he acts in judgment on whole groups of people and on individuals; see for example Exodus 12:12 and Acts 12:20-23. Indeed, the prophet Amos said: “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6). We could also discuss the fact that judgment does not always mean death and destruction (Genesis 30:6). But can we discern any clues about Hurricane Sandy?

A Matter of Timing

This hurricane and its impact are so big that there are probably many clues and may well be more than one meaning. However, one aspect of the timing that stands out is that Hurricane Sandy bore down upon the east coast of the USA just a few days before Halloween; and at its core Halloween is a celebration of things that are expressly forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:9-14).

Despite this, Halloween has been growing in popularity so much that 7 in 10 Americans planned to celebrate it this year, spending as much as $8.0 billion [8], and making it the second most popular holiday in the USA next to Christmas [9]. The widespread acceptance of Halloween is indicated by articles promoting it [10] and the fears of some that Hurricane Sandy would adversely affect sales of Halloween goods [11]. Could it be that one message to take from the scenes of destruction left by Hurricane Sandy is that the Lord God Almighty is not pleased with this complete disregard for his Word? If so, then that message is not restricted to the USA.

Power and Money

Another possibility lies in the current focus on power and money. Hurricane Sandy interrupted the 2012 presidential elections [12] that are the most expensive in history, with an estimated cost of $2 billion [13]. This is a vast sum of money being spent on a power struggle being fought between the Democrats and the Republicans. Yet throughout the Bible God prompts his people to care for the poor and the vulnerable. How quickly the two candidates have returned to campaigning, despite the fact that many people are still suffering greatly as a result of the hurricane. Again, if this is a message from God through this storm about too much focus on power and money, it does not apply to the USA alone.

This article was first published on 2nd November 2012.
© Copyright 2012 Robin Lane

References

[1] Online conversations around Sandy feature God, prayer and atheism.
CNN Belief Blog, Conor Finnegan, 30th October 2012.

[2] Storm Sandy: Anger as fuel shortages hamper recovery
BBC News Online, 2nd November 2012.

[3] Methodists assist Haiti and Cuba after Sandy
Christian Today, 31st October 2012.

[4] Chaplains deployed to Hurricane Sandy communities
Christian Today, 31st October 2012.
[5] MLJ.5393 The Right View of Life, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, audio recording.

[6] Assessing the Damage From Hurricane Sandy
The New York Times, 31st October 2012.

[7] Did God send Hurricane Sandy?
Brad Hirschfield, The Washington Post, 31st October 2012.

[8] There’s No Spooking Spending as Seven in 10 Americans Plan to Celebrate Halloween This Year
National Retail Federation, Washington, 25th September 2012.

[9] Halloween around the world
Wikipedia, 2nd November 2012.

[10] Halloween in the wake of storms
By Starhawk , The Washington Post, 31st Oct 2012.

[11] Frankenstorm Puts Halloween Sales In Jeopardy
Laura Heller, Forbes, 26th October 2012.

[12] Hurricane Sandy swallows presidential campaign
Brian Montopoli, CBS News, 29th October 2012.

[13] US elections: Triumph of the overkill in costliest campaign
Alina Selyukh, The Scotsman, 2nd November 2012.