The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Thoughts on Hurricanes and God

Posted on: September 11, 2017

DID PRAYER REDUCE THE DAMAGE OF IRMA?

As I write this, Hurricane Irma has been downgraded to a tropical storm, and Florida is beginning to lift its head and assess the damage, as what’s left of Irma sweeps northwest across Georgia into Alabama.

The bad news is that Florida was pounded heavily by Irma. The good news is that it wasn’t as bad as was feared. A Fox news headline proclaims: “Hurricane Irma Could Have Been Worse, Experts Claim.”

  • Early on, Miami/South Florida was feared to be the bulls-eye of Irma’s landfall.  The “eye” missed Miami altogether.
  • A Washington Post article reports that the Florida Keys escaped the predictions of potentially catastrophic storm surges and flooding. Most of Key West is only 3 feet above sea level. With 12 to 18 foot storm surges possible, it was feared that Key West could be wiped off the map. Yet, while the hurricane felled many trees and caused property damage, and the low-lying areas of Key West had 3 feet of water and were impassable by car, there were many areas of the island that saw no flooding at all.
  • A New York Times article quotes Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn saying that the city was spared a “punch in the face.” He added, “The first blush is that not only did we dodge a bullet, but we survived pretty well. Not a lot of flooding. Tree removal, debris — don’t want to say it’s negligible, but it’s manageable.”

Don’t get me wrong. Irma’s impact was bad. Very bad. Loss of life. Thousands of people currently stranded with limited supplies, millions without power… for who knows how long. But,even with all of that, it doesn’t seem to have been as bad as it might’ve been.

We might ask ourselves, “Why?” Did we just get lucky? Or was it possibly in answer to prayer?

While we were still reeling from the impact of hurricane Harvey, the news that Irma had become one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes ever and was headed straight for Florida caused an outpouring of prayer rarely seen.

President Trump had already called for a national day of prayer following Harvey’s landfall, and in that same spirit, a national outpouring of prayer was offered for those in the path of hurricane Irma. Even the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, said on ABC’s This Week, “the most important thing is to pray for us.”

It is somewhere between difficult and impossible to prove that anything happens in answer to prayer. Sometimes it is more apparent than other times, but skeptics often remain unconvinced. Unbelief never has enough proof.

You have perhaps heard the story of the New York real estate tycoon who was driving to an office in downtown Manhattan to close a major real estate deal. He couldn’t find a parking space however, and the clock kept ticking as he drove around and around, hunting for a coveted opportunity. He began to get desperate. If he missed his appointment, he could lose this deal, which was worth millions of dollars!

As a last resort, he began to pray. “Lord, you know that I’m not a praying man, but I really need to find a parking place! Lord, if you give me a parking place, I’ll stop smoking, drinking, cussing, and running around with wild women.”

Nothing.

“Lord, if you give me a parking place, I’ll stop lying, cheating and stealing in my real estate business.”

Nothing.

“Lord please, please, please! If you give me a parking place I’ll even give $10,000 to that church down the street!”

As those words passed his lips, a car pulled out of a parking place immediately in front of the building he needed to go to.

He swerved into the space, stuck his head out of the window and shouted toward heaven, “Never mind Lord! One just opened up!”

Indeed! Unbelief never has enough proof!

It is certainly not possible to prove that hurricane Irma was less damaging than it might have been because of all the prayers lifted to God for mercy. But I’m inclined to believe that it was.

If so, does that mean that the people of Florida are better than the people of Texas? Certainly not. Jesus made it clear in Luke 13 that disaster does not always fall on the less righteous. It would just mean that our attention was sharpened because of Harvey, and that that generated greater prayer in the face of Irma.

Meanwhile, Texas is still digging out from underneath hurricane Harvey’s devastation, and would still be the subject of national headlines if it weren’t for Irma.

Add to that hurricane Katia that hit Mexico last week, hurricane José still wobbling ominously around in the Atlantic, raging wildfires out west, and one of the century’s biggest earthquakes in Mexico, and nature suddenly has everyone’s full attention.

A New York Times headline asks: “Apocalyptic Thoughts Amid Nature’s Chaos? You Could Be Forgiven.” The article goes on to say, “While the sense of some gathering apocalypse is not sending people into bunkers, it lingers even in secular minds, if not always consciously.”

Whether this ominous rash of natural calamities is a result of God’s encroaching judgment (as some are speculating) or whether it is just part of the natural cycles of a fallen world, is unknown. But regardless of which it is, it is clear that natural disasters are largely uncontrollable by humans, and that they should drive us all to prayer for God’s mercy and grace.

Along with continued prayers for God’s mercy on everyone impacted by these calamities, we can also all pray that these natural disasters, and any other disasters that may follow, will shake our country out of its current spiritual dysfunction and draw us back into closer alignment with our God.


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