A month ago, tornados in Oklahoma were pretty big news. However, for me, it could have been on another planet as easily as Oklahoma. I have never been to that state and where I live, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, weather is not usually a big deal. We appreciate mild winters and gripe about how July and August are sticky and hot. But we do not get blizzards or dangerously cold temperatures. There are tornado warnings but we rarely see them. There are no volcanoes or earth quakes.
However, recently we have had a lot of rain and on June 30, we had more than usual. There was even some flooding. Our associate pastor wisely canceled a Sunday evening event due to the dangerous road conditions. Beyond an explanation any competent meteorologist could offer, is there theological purpose? Was God trying to tell Chapel Hill something with this hard rain?
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, thousands of lives were lost. A few preachers callously said God sent the storm on America as punishment for our sins. Such inane interpretation disregards all the nonchristians who survived and all the Christians who died. Such a foolish response also ignores Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-5.
I don’t think God said, I am sending this hurricane to punish America, or, I need to get Chapel Hill’s attention, so I will flood East Gate Shopping Center. I do not believe it works exactly that way. I do not believe the line from storms (catastrophic or inconveniencing) can be drawn directly from God’s hand to our situation. Weather happens and we need to deal with it.
I do though think the weather, on good days and bad days, is a reminder that we humans are not in control. Human scientific achievement is remarkable and has been used for previously unheard of acts of healing and disease prevention and disease cure. Our church is full of scientists who could explain better than me the marvelous advances that have been made in science in just a few years’ time.
But we are not in control and last Sunday’s floods may achieve a theological end if they remind us of that. The world is God’s. We are His possession. No matter how independent we would like to imagine we are, in truth, we belong to God. Rebelling against that brings us great spiritual, physical, and emotional discomfort. Willingly surrendering our hearts to God’s lordship brings joy.
It is not a bad thing to be humbled. Only in our humility (and humiliation) can we realize the grace God has given in Jesus and gives daily in the Holy Spirit. That grace raises us up to soar on eagle’s wings (Isaiah 40:31). I do not know how much God is involved in daily weather patterns. I do not think it is possible to assert God’s level of control. Does it happen? Does he direct everything? These questions cannot be answered. But if God uses the rain to humble me and in my humility I reach out to Him and in reaching out I find grace, then I thank God for the rain.