What may we conclude, if anything at all, about the tragedy in Houston? What lessons does the Bible teach us as we try to make sense of this event? What is the relationship of God’s sovereignty to the devastation of this hurricane? Here are ten things to keep in mind.
(1) It will not accomplish anything good to deny what Scripture so clearly asserts, that God is absolutely sovereign over all of nature. He can himself send devastation. Or he may permit Satan to wreak havoc in the earth. Yes he can, if he chooses, intervene and prevent a hurricane, an earthquake, a tsunami, and all other natural disasters. In the end, we do not know why he makes one choice and not another.
(2) That God is in absolute control over all the so-called “forces of nature” is evident from numerous biblical texts, such as Psalm 104; Psalm 147:8-9, 14-18; 148:1-12; Job 9:5-10; 26:7-14; 37:2-24; 38:8-41; Jeremiah 10:12-13; 14:22; Amos 4:7; and Mark 4:39-41.
(3) God’s sovereignty also extends to the life and death of those caught up in such disasters.
“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deut. 32:39)
“The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Sam. 12:6)
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16).
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 5:13-15).
(4) God is sovereign, not Satan. Whether or to what extent Satan may have had a hand in what occurred we can never know. What we can know and must proclaim is that he can do nothing apart from God’s sovereign permission. Satan is not ultimately sovereign. God alone is.
(5) Great natural disasters such as this tell us nothing about the comparative sinfulness of those who are its victims. Please do not conclude that the citizens of southeast Texas are more sinful than any other group of individuals that have not as yet experienced such devastation. Please do not conclude that we are more righteous than the people of Houston because God has thus far spared us from such events. The Bible simply won’t let us draw either conclusion. What the Bible does say is that we all continue to live and flourish not because we deserve it but solely because of the mercy and longsuffering of God. Life is on loan from God. He does not owe us existence and what he has mercifully given he can take back at any time and in any way he sees fit.
(6) Events such as this should remind us that no place on earth is safe and that we will all one day die (unless Jesus returns first). Whether by a peaceful natural death at the age of 90, or by a sudden heart attack at 50, or in a car accident at 15, or by a slow battle with cancer at virtually any age, we will all likewise die. We are not immortal. The only ultimately and eternally safe place to be is in the arms of our heavenly Father from which no hurricane or tsunami or cancer or car wreck can ever snatch us or wrench us free.
(7) We should not look upon such events and conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are at hand, but neither should we conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are not at hand. What we should do is humble ourselves before the Lord and prepare our hearts for the day of his return, whenever that may be, whether in our lifetime or some distant date centuries from now.
(8) We must learn to weep with those who weep. We must pray for them, serve them, help them, give to them, and do all within our power to alleviate their suffering (even if their suffering is caused by God). We do not have to agree with them religiously or politically to shower them with the love of Christ. Jesus calls upon us to show mercy to those who suffer, even if they do not deserve it. The fact is, none of us deserves it. That’s why the Bible calls it mercy: it is undeserved kindness. Remember Luke 6:27 where Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
(9) Pray that God will use such an event to open the hearts and eyes of not only our nation but every people group on earth that is immersed in paganism, to see the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and turn in faith to him, lest something infinitely worse than a hurricane and flood befall them: Eternal condemnation. Eternal suffering.
(10) Whenever events such as this occur, we must exercise humility and Spirit-empowered restraint in our verbal reactions. Be slow to provide explanations in the absence of explicit biblical teaching on the subject. In the end, we must join the apostle Paul and say: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).