I can’t recall another time I got emotional watching the news. But last week, tears rolled down my cheeks as I found myself glued to the TV in disbelief, watching the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey.
I witnessed an entire family being rescued during a live broadcast. Unable to land the helicopter, the first responders lowered a metal rescue basket as the family waited below. I thought of countless families similar to this one whose lives would forever be changed in a matter of hours.
Tropical Storm Harvey is the worst rainfall disaster in U.S. history. The damage that it caused is truly unfathomable, likely to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The rebuilding of the area’s infrastructure will take years. I can’t imagine processing the tremendous loss many are experiencing in Texas.
As I consider the suffering of literally millions of people, I find myself asking this question: Do bad things happen randomly as the result of living in a fallen world, or is God actually in control of the events of our lives?
The answer to this complicated question is extremely important, and will cause us to go in one of two directions: Either it will lead us down an unbiblical path, stripping God of His power and goodness, or it will bring great comfort and peace, even in the midst of mystery, pain and unanswered questions.
I think there are four things we need to remember as we process the devastation and heartache caused by tragedy, whether on a national scale like Hurricane Harvey, or in a more personal, private experience like the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or the betrayal of a friend.
1. God is in control
Psalm 135:6 says, “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” This proclamation summarizes a common principle throughout Scripture. He is all-powerful. He is unhindered by creation. He “rules over all” (Ps. 103:19).
In his book “Trusting God,” Jerry Bridges says, “Nothing is so small or trivial as to escape the attention of God’s sovereign control; nothing is so great as to be beyond his power to control it. No detail of your life is too insignificant for your heavenly Father’s attention; no circumstance is so big that he cannot control it.”
Nothing can thwart God’s ultimate plan for our lives. Not the malicious acts or unintended mistakes of others, not the consequences of obstinate disobedience, not even the rainfall of a historic hurricane can get in God’s way as He accomplishes His purposes.
2. God is good
What ultimately brings comfort with the fact that God is all-powerful is that He is also good. His lovingkindness is everlasting (Ps. 118:1). His mercies never come to an end (Lam. 3:22). By His very nature, He cannot act in a way that goes against His love, mercy, goodness and faithfulness (2 Tim. 2:13). He cannot lie (Num. 23:18; Heb. 6:18), nor is He the author or originator of evil (Rom. 5:12).
Jesus entered into the pain of human suffering. He was known as “the man of sorrow” and was acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3). He mourned over Jerusalem (Lk. 19) and wept for Lazarus’s family (Jn. 11:35). Whatever trial we face, we are reassured from Hebrews 14:5 that God is a God who can sympathize with what we are going through.
When we are experiencing intense pain, it can be easy to question God’s goodness. It is during these times especially that we must learn to direct our attention to who God has revealed himself to be in His Word.
3. It takes faith
To see good during intense pain takes faith. We must learn to trust God even when our emotions are telling us otherwise. And rather than allowing our feelings to dictate truth, our trust in God must be based upon what He has revealed to us in the Bible. We were created to feel the pain of adversity, but must resist the temptation to allow that pain to cause us to think unbiblical thoughts about God.
Jerry Bridges continues, “You cannot trust God in isolation from all other areas of your life. To grow in your ability to trust God in times of adversity, you must first lay a solid foundation of a daily personal relationship with him. [Only] as you know him intimately and seek to obey him completely will you be able to establish a trust relationship with God.”
I’ve found this to be true in my own life. When I spend time praying and reading God’s Word, I discover that I’m in a better place where I can truly listen to what He has to say. The more I reflect on who He is, the more I am reminded of His unfathomable love that was displayed on the cross.
If Christ loved us enough to die for us when we were His enemies, surely He loves us now that we are His children. And if His love was sufficient for our greatest need, our eternal salvation, it is also enough for the lesser needs we face in this life. We will often find that it is in the very midst of our pain that we experience the most remarkable manifestations of His love.
4. God has a plan
If you have personally been affected by Hurricane Harvey, our prayers go out to you. But more importantly, remember that the loving, compassionate, all-powerful God is with you. He does not allow difficulty in our lives without intention. He never wastes pain. He always has a plan.
C.S Lewis beautifully stated, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Part of God’s plan is to get our attention, to help us see beyond the temporary into the eternal.
After all that Job had gone through, he was able to say, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes” (Job 42:5). The tragedy he experienced brought him closer to the Lord in ways he never would have known otherwise.
Moving Us to Act
In spite of the calamity surrounding Harvey, we have already begun to see some of the good that God is orchestrating.
A YouTube video shows hundreds of people waiting in their trucks along the highway, hoping to utilize their boats to help rescue strangers who were stranded. A furniture store owner quickly turns his business into a shelter and sends out delivery trucks to rescue people from their flooded homes. A team of strangers forms a human chain in the current to help a woman in labor. Our country that has been divided politically for months is now coming together to help those in need.
The heroic stories and selfless acts we’ve seen over the past week are uplifting and inspiring. They should motivate us to look beyond ourselves, to find ways we can help. We may not all be able to be present in Texas, but we can all do something. We can pray. We can give. We can encourage others with the hope that Christ offers.
As photos of East Texas fill our news feeds, we should be reminded of the devastating effects that sin has in this world. It should create in us a longing for a day to come where there will be “no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). We should also be more motivated to proclaim the gospel message to a world without hope, as it is only through Christ that we can find peace in this life.
The very same principles that we are reminded of by Tropical Storm Harvey are applicable to whatever you may be going through today. Whether it is mourning the loss of a loved one to financial hardship to the unfulfilled longing to be married, remember that God is in control. He is good. He has a plan. Let’s cling to these truths in faith and anxiously wait for that which the Lord desires to accomplish in our lives.
Editor’s Note: Give financially to Harvey relief efforts through the organized efforts of Focus on the Family and Convoy of Hope. Every gift makes a difference!