By: Jim Virkler
The onset of two deadly hurricanes in late August and early September 2017 broke a twelve year stretch of relative calm with respect to the most destructive Category 3 or stronger hurricanes. We acknowledge that many Christian and secular commentators are searching for answers to the difficult problem of horrific destruction. The apparent paucity of destructive hurricanes for the past twelve years does nothing to mitigate the questions of why God “permits” such tragedies to occur even today. The two observations about hurricanes, (1) no severe ones struck the US mainland for twelve years, and the question of (2) “Why does God permit such devastating storms?” are entirely peripheral to the multifaceted primary questions about hurricanes.
Many Christian theologians have offered explanations for horrifying tragedies which have punctuated our planet with regularity even before written records. Hurricanes are part of a family of weather and climate events. These include tornadoes, violent thunderstorms, hailstorms, straight line windstorms, floods, droughts, heat waves, extreme cold spells, and blizzards. Add to this catalog other impactful environmental events such as volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other upheavals. Some analysts energetically vocalize, “Earth is a chaotic place of brokenness and despair.” We do not concur with this generalization.
What would imaginary visitors from outside our Solar System discover as they approached Earth for the first time? Would they discover a wonderful “Blue Marble” suspended majestically and beautifully in space? (The Apollo 17 astronauts snapped a famous picture of Earth from 28,000 miles during their lunar journey in 1972. Their famous photograph was reassuringly dubbed the “Blue Marble.”) As we consider our “Blue Marble” planet, what do we see? We offer a trite cliché: The answer depends on whether we view the glass half empty, or half full. The underlying purpose of our science/faith blog is to call attention to the works of God in the physical realm in order to relate them to strengthening our faith. The Creator is the author of the physical creation. He is also the author of truths in the spiritual world, imparting to his people the gift of faith.
At this time of tragedy and destruction brought upon the victims of the hurricanes, we are challenged to blend concepts of tragedy and triumph. The hurricanes have imposed an overwhelming dose of tragedy on their victims—tragedy which may take years to repair. We stare in horror at the graphic images on news channels on a near constant basis. At the same time, we long for the relief which inevitably comes as repair and restoration progress in the future.
In August and September 2017 US hurricane victims may be forgiven for temporarily viewing the glass as half empty, even close to completely empty. When life circumstances change, we see the dividing line between empty and full becoming variable, even on a daily basis. Hurricane victims hope and pray for a rapid positive trend in the levels within the glass.
We search for opportunities to view the glass as more than half full. In our vision of Planet Earth, there are many opportunities to reinforce our view of “fullness.” Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards DVD Privileged Planet enables us to rejoice in Earth’s “very good” quality. Gonzales and Richards present Earth as a wonderful place specifically designed by God for human habitation. Their DVD describes in graphic detail a planet (1) having the proper distance from the sun (2) having liquid water (3) that is terrestrial (a rocky planet of our size and composition)(4) having tectonic plates (5) protected by large planets (6) orbiting the correct type of star (7) having a large moon (8) having a magnetic field and (9) being oxygen rich.
Our obligation to be positive and work to remedy the brokenness brought about by these storms is a gift we may achieve with the help of God. We do not live in a perfect world. God has higher purposes in permitting suffering of humanity in the earthly sphere. Some of those purposes will remain unknown until the onset of the New Creation if the Creator chooses to reveal them.
My father passed into eternity at age 90. He endured the destruction of several east coast hurricanes in his farming operation in the 1960s and later. In each case there were remedies for damage and inconvenience. As he approached the end of his life he often expressed satisfaction for the blessings he experienced during his long, earthly journey. He lived according to the instructions in I Thessalonians 5:16: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.