Summary: God is with us even in the midst of the fury of the hurricane.
Hurricanes and God
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to the book of James, chapter 1, and follow along as I read v2:
2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy,
Amen. The word of God. Thanks be to God.
Did God Do It?
On July 10, 1975, I was ordained a Christian minister by the South Carolina District of the Wesleyan Church. I have been in the ministry for 30 years. In that time, I have met a lot of people, talked with a lot of people about their relationship with God. I have been asked a lot of questions. I have been asked one question more often than any other. I have talked with other ministers and they tell me that they have had the same experience. They have been asked this same question more than any other. I have been asked this question by atheists and unbelievers. I have been asked this question by devout Christians and believers
This is the question: Does God cause natural disaster? Generally the question is asked about a specific disaster. Last year did God cause four hurricanes to slam into Florida? On December 26 of last year, did God cause a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra, which in turn caused a tremendously powerful tsunami in the Indian Ocean that hit twelve Asian countries, killing 225,000 people and leaving millions homeless.
Because it is asked so often, we need to examine this question carefully. Did God form Katrina off the coast of Africa as a tropical storm and push it west to hit Florida as a category 1 Hurricane? Did God then reform Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico as a monster category 4 storm and deliberately point it at the Mississippi and Louisiana coast and blast that area with it, creating what is being called the most expensive natural disaster in American history?
This is not the same question as asking if God causes war and terrorism. Last Sabbath, I was talking about the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01. No one has to ask who caused those attacks. We know who caused them. It was not God. God did not fly any planes into buildings. The 19 people who hijacked those planes are responsible for the death and destruction of 9/11, and the people who paid for their mission and the people who supported their mission—they are responsible.
Beginning on April 6, 1994, and for the next hundred days, in the central African country of Ruwanda, Hutu militia, using clubs and machetes, killed perhaps as many as 800,000 Tutsis. At one point, they were killing 10,000 people a day. Did God do that? No, those people with the clubs and machetes did it. They hacked and smashed other people in an orgy of blood and death. God did not do that. People did that to people.
Human beings have free will; therefore, we are responsible for what we do. We are responsible for our sins. Most people know that. We understand that wars, massacres, and acts of terrorism are produced by human sin not by God. If a serial killer murders a dozen people and is caught, and he says at his trial that God told him to do it, God told him to murder those people. None of us would believe him, and rightly so. He killed those people, not God.
When people use their free will to do evil things. They can’t blame God. They are responsible.
“Acts of God”
But that is not the question we are examining this morning. We are not talking about disasters caused by human sinfulness. We are talking about natural disasters: hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, drought, volcanoes, floods, tidal waves, tornadoes. Insurance companies call these things “acts of God,” which is their way of saying they are not responsible and they are not going to pay.
But natural disasters are not “acts of God.” Surely, no one believes that God deliberately constructed Hurricane Katrina and deliberately used it to strike the Gulf coast and kill all those people and do all that damage. So far as we can determine right now, most of the people who were killed by Katrina were the weak, the old and the helpless. Does God kill the weak and the powerless? No
Hurricanes are a type of low pressure system that forms off the coast of Africa. They are formed as part of the circulation of air that moves heat from the equator up to the north. Hurricanes, typhoons, storms are not freaks of nature. They are as much a part of the weather as a pleasant day in September. A meteorologist could tell us more than we want to know about such storms, but the point is that there is nothing supernatural involved here. There is no direct act of God to create a hurricane. It is just a natural part of weather. It is a part we don’t like. Storms are destructive and scary. They can be big trouble, and we do not like that.