Acts of Nature

Credit: MaxPixel

Are you as weary as I am of the seemingly never ending hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, floods, fires, droughts, and earthquakes? Enough, already!

More important than our weariness is the loss experienced by those directly or indirectly affected by these powerful and destructive acts of nature. The list includes demolished homes and businesses, damaged or destroyed property and possessions, loss of life or limb.

These events are often called “acts of God” but almost always have human or meteorological causes. I wonder about the role of the God of the universe in the manifestation of power in the forces of nature. Obviously he allows such things to happen. But does he always cause them? Such quandaries belong in the category of questions to ask the Lord someday.

To be sure, examples of God acting through nature are found in the pages of Holy Scripture, most notably the great flood, undoubtedly the single most destructive event in world history. Yet we also know, on another occasion, that the Lord’s appearance to Elijah was not in a great and mighty wind, nor in an earthquake or fire, but in “a still, small voice.” 1 Kings 19:12

What then are we to do when hurricanes named Harvey or Katrina or Michael ravage communities and ruin lives? When fires in California turn assets into ashes? When torrential rainfall in Texas converts peaceful rivers into raging floodwaters?

We say “Lord, have mercy!” We do what we can to relieve the suffering of those directly impacted. We assist with picking up whatever pieces of their lives remain. We help rebuild and replace their property and possessions. And we do our best not to become weary in doing well. Gal. 6:9

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Angels of Mercy

Flooding in Pittston, Pennsylvania. Credit: NY Daily News

Flooding in Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Credit: NY Daily News

Both in America and across the globe we continue to experience tragedy and trauma produced by natural disaster. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, floods in Texas and tornados in Illinois and Michigan have drawn our recent attention to the vulnerability of humankind to unimaginably powerful forces of nature.

In the news reports we often see photos of areas of devastation that once were cities or towns and survivors who are also victims searching through piles and pieces of what were once their homes. Even more sadly, emotionally gripping photos portray the trauma of serious injury or the grief of a parent whose young child was taken from their arms by flood waters or tornado winds.

Several months ago I received a note from Chris Wicher of the LCMS Eastern District, a district president friend of mine who had heard a story that some would dismiss as coincidence but, for people of faith, displays God’s activity in our lives. Here’s the story:

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A few pastors and other men were driving around the flood area of Pittston, Penn. earlier this week, looking for people who needed help in cleaning up their flooded homes. They came to a couple standing in front of their home, simply staring at their house.

The car stopped and one of the pastors asked if they needed help. The people responded: “No, not really. We don’t know where to begin and besides the house does not yet have electricity restored.”

The would-be helpers told them who they were and that they were simply driving around to see if they could be of help. “Besides,” they said, “we have a generator and pump and mops and buckets and Clorox.”

Quite moved by their generous offer, the homeowners took them up on their offer and in a few hours the cleanup was completed. If kindness and generosity were not enough, here’s the thing.

Not five minutes before the carload of generous helpers offered their assistance, the couple prayed to the Lord for direction and help! God heard their prayer by sending some very good hearted men. The love of Jesus moves us to acts of kindness. God be praised!

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For me the point of this story is that whether near or far away from the scene of any kind of disaster, God calls his people to assist those affected most seriously. Such folks could accurately be called “angels of mercy.” May their host increase!