In Houston, Harvey’s anniversary is being remembered. In case you missed them, you may read our related postings written in 2017:
- The Blue Marble & Hurricane Harvey
- Jesus, Hurricanes, God’s Power & Peace
- Being a “Deacon” to People Who Have None
Hurricane Harvey engulfed the Houston metro area and was the costliest tropical cyclone on record. Many have not yet fully recovered from this monster storm. A non-Christian mindset says, “We are merely the stars’ tennis balls, struck and bandied whatever way pleases them.”1 Bible-believing Christians reject that idea and trust that we are safe in Jesus’ caring hands, no matter what happens to us, whether we understand it our not. We believe Jesus’ Scriptures like this:
Christ says: I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. (Jeremiah 29:11-14, The Message)
Jesus Providence Soothes. God’s providence comforts us after Hurricane Harvey and during difficulties of all sorts. Providence is Christ’s completely holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing every creature and every action, ordering them all to His own glory.2 The Bible teaches that our times, our experiences, our futures are all Christ’s hands.3 Nothing is haphazard, not even things that seem accidental. “We toss the coin, but it is the Lord who controls its decision.”4 Our lives are not like a cork bobbing adrift in the Gulf of Mexico or like a tumbleweed blowing around West Texas. Jesus’ followers are chosen and saved and kept in Christ, and God makes everything work out according for His plan.5
I still don’t understand why the Lord ordained Harvey and why my friends and neighbors have suffered so badly and many continue to suffer. I think again of William Cowper’s hymn which reminds us: “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm. Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill, He treasures up His bright designs, And works His sovereign will. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence He hides His smiling face.”
We trust that Jesus controls all things, but His ways are beyond our understanding. John Murray wrote, “God’s providence is often a dark and impenetrable abyss to us. Clouds and darkness are round about Him. His way is in the sea, and His path in the great waters. God’s footsteps are not known to us.” But here’s the good news: Jesus knows what He’s doing, even when we don’t! That’s a God-centered perspective, not us-centered. That’s what I want to remember when life doesn’t make sense to me, when I have unanswered questions and unanswered prayers. We are often not sure what Christ is doing with our health (physical, mental, emotional), our families, our jobs, our nation, our world. Then we must remember afresh that God is sure what He’s accomplishing, even when we are not.
Jesus Was Not Absent During Harvey. Christ was on His throne in Heaven doing all things well, invisibly present and helping suffering and dying people. Jesus was working through and with individuals, communities, and churches to rescue victims and take evacuees to shelters. The Lord was working through and with hundreds of thousands of volunteers from all over the country to show His compassion by acts of mercy, prayer, and financial assistance.6
Natural and man-made disasters bring death, injury, and hardship. Other heartbreaking tragedies cause anguish to individuals and communities and we don’t have satisfactory answers. We don’t know, but we know that our Heavenly Father knows, our Elder Brother Jesus knows, and our Comforter and Counselor, God the Spirit, knows. So we rest in His wise and loving care for us. When Eli learned that his adult sons would die he said, “God is the LORD; let Him do what is good in His eyes.”7 Eli rested in God’s sovereign goodness, trusting that whatever the Lord did was good, even though Eli couldn’t see the goodness in it.
Christ Knows and Is Near. He says: My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts….Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you….Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.8 That’s Christ’s perspective on life that I must never forget.
Jesus’ name “Immanuel” means “God with us,”9 and although suffering confuses our minds and hearts, we can trust God the Holy Trinity to be near us and to work out everything according to His perfect purposes.10 The storms of life prove Christ’s strength as our Anchor. We flee to Jesus, taking hold of the hope set before us and are greatly encouraged. We have this hope in Christ as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.11 Jesus’ unseen presence comforts us; We know He’s always near; And when life’s storms assault our soul, Christ says, “My child, I’m here.”12
Trials dark on every hand and we cannot understand all the ways God will lead us to His blessed promised land. Jesus will guide us with His eye and we’ll follow till we die. And we’ll understand Him better by and by.13
Jesus knows what He’s doing, even when we don’t!
1 John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, 1612. 2 Larger Catechism #18. 3 Psalm 31:15. 4 Prov 16:33, TLB. 5 Eph 1:10-11. 6 Some of this language adapted from journalist Robert McClory, commenting on Hurricane Katrina. 7 1 Sam 3:18. 8 Isaiah 55:8-9; Heb 13:5; Matt 28:20. 9 Isaiah 7:14; Matt 1:23. 10 Eph 1:11. 11 paraphrase of Heb 6:18-19. 12 Adapted from Dan De Haan. 13 from the hymn “We’ll Understand It Better By and By” by Charles Albert Tindley (1905).