Who is Controlling the Weather?
It has been a number of weeks since an earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean created a tsunami which wreaked terrible destruction over a wide area in south-eastern Asia. At the time of writing this (January 12) the toll of the dead and missing was estimated as high as 250,000 people. For most of us who live thousands of miles away from that area, the images of destruction and death are seared in our minds. But for the people who live there and endured the consequences of the earthquake and tsunami, the horror of what happened is almost too much to endure. We read of people who saw their spouse or children or parents dragged out to sea, never to be seen again. Some couldn’t talk about it. Some were so traumatized that they could not remember or speak the name of their loved one. Poor, poor people!
There is something terribly humbling and frustrating in all of this. Such powerful forces were unleashed in the earthquake and the tsunami that it is clear there is no human technology or construction that can prevent or control such forces. To put it simply: man stands very small before earthquakes and floods. He can try to develop warning systems and maybe build a dam or retaining wall, but who can control an earthquake? Who can control the weather?
At this point, some minds turn to the thought of a higher being. People think of God. Their thoughts are not always kind or generous. Time and again the hostile question is raised: if there is a God and He is in control, then why does He allow earthquakes and floods to happen? Why does He allow such rampant destruction and death? Why doesn’t He control the weather and save lives?
A Sobering Consideration
It is a question we all have to deal with: why does God allow such bad things to happen in our world? How do we explain to the world that earthquakes, tsunamis, and widespread death and destruction are not a demonstration of God’s indifference? We know the answer to this: it is made very clear on the opening pages of Scripture. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, not only did they lose the ability to show themselves as the image of God, but all creation came under the curse of sin and death. The Lord said to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 immediately after the fall into sin:
Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.
We may also think of the Preacher’s description of this world in Ecclesiastes, which he describes as a “vanity of vanities.” Similarly, Paul writes in Romans 8, “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Our world, complete with its diseases, earthquakes, violence, floods, emergency rooms, jails, graveyards, and death, is the world of man’s own making when he fell into sin.
The sobering consideration of the devastating tsunamis in south-eastern Asia is that this is the kind of world in which all mankind lives after the fall into sin. None of us is free from it. We all know about pain, disease, the doctor’s office, tears, funerals, loneliness, and so on.
Jesus Calms the Storm
Are we left with no hope? Will the pain and misery of our world never end? Will no one control our weather and all the other hurtful things of life? We know differently. In fact, an event in Jesus Christ’s ministry makes this clear to us. He was crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat with his disciples. He went to sleep. Meanwhile a storm arose – the kind that swamps boats and drowns their occupants. In terror the disciples woke the Lord Jesus, expressing their fear that they were perishing. Then we read in Luke 8:24, “He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.” One word from the Lord Jesus and the sea was as smooth as glass. Then we read, “In fear and amazement they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.’” Why were they in such awe and amazement? Because from their knowledge of the Old Testament there is only one person who can control the weather and that is God! They realized that this person who was in the boat with them, whom they knew as their Lord and Master, was also God! This is God who took upon Himself human flesh. This is Immanuel who controls the wind and the waves, who keeps his people safe.
Victory in the Cross
What Jesus Christ did with the storm on the Sea of Galilee was a sign of his great victory on the cross. Jesus Christ died on the cross in order to pay for our sins and to redeem us as the children of God. Now this glorious redemption and newfound liberty of the children of God is something that we can enjoy right here on earth. Creation itself is the territory where God’s children can live, learn, get married, raise children, fulfill a career, evangelize, travel, and so on. Once again the cultural mandate of Paradise is real and tangible. Indeed, creation cannot destroy us. As Paul makes clear in Romans 8, after having given his Son to die for us, God will also give us all things with Him. And there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. What comfort and confidence we have in daily living under the blessing of God! Even the weather must serve his glory and our salvation!
But there are Still Storms
However, the storms have not all abated. Earthquakes still happen, along with all kinds of terrible things. It makes us wonder sometimes: is Jesus Christ really the King of kings, and does He have all authority in heaven and on earth? We need to realize that even though Jesus Christ has won the decisive victory over Satan, sin, and death, and He controls all things, perfection will not come until He returns on the clouds of heaven. On the final day He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death, mourning, and pain will be no more (Revelation 21). But meanwhile, this world bears the scars of a vale of tears and the valley of the shadow of death. Until the last elect person is brought to faith and gathered in by the Good Shepherd, we will feel the effects of the vanity of vanities.
But the point is, this cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus and it must serve both God’s glory and our salvation. We have that comfort.
Comfort in the Storm
At first it is hard to see any comfort in the midst of the devastating tsunami. But consider how reckless and indifferent people can become when everything is going well. Peace, prosperity, and health can make people forget God just as they did in the days of Noah. It is in the dark days of the storm and of so much destruction that mankind receives a kind of wakeup call. There is no certainty in technology, in material wealth, in health, in beautiful vacations on tropical beaches. The only peace, comfort, and certainty that there is in this world is in genuinely knowing and experiencing the love of God in Christ Jesus! It is in the forgiveness of sins, the renewal of life, and living a life to the praise and glory of God. It is in knowing that in good times and in bad there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!
What happened in south-eastern Asia was a terrible thing. Who of us has not shed a tear and raised up prayers to God? But we have the comfort that this is all in the hands of our Lord and King Jesus Christ. He gives peace in the storms of life. He leads us safely through the valley of the shadow of death. He is the One who promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes. The real storm of being enslaved by Satan and travelling the road to eternal perdition has been stilled in the blood of Jesus Christ!
A day is coming when there will be no more earthquakes, no tsunamis, no disease, no prisons, no graveyards, in short, nothing that shows so much as a vestige of a broken and decaying world that has come under the power of sin. May that be our comfort and hope, and may it also be the comfort and hope for those poor people who have suffered so much in the devastation of south-eastern Asia.