On this Thursday afternoon, I watch as not one, not two, but three hurricanes make their course along the Atlantic basin, gaining violent momentum propelled by forces in the atmosphere. First Harvey, now Irma, Jose and Katia. I can’t imagine what people are feeling as they brace for what may come. Cities along the Gulf of Mexico have had enough. I think of Houston of the many images of homes flooded and the roofs of cars barely surfacing in the muddy water. Similarly, I think of the monsoons that have been raging in Northern India, not just destroying homes and infrastructure, but causing over one thousand deaths, or the landslides in Sierra Leone and how families mourn the loss of their loved ones buried under the red soil.
I’m not quite sure what all of this is about, but sometimes it feels as though the Earth is coming apart at the seams.
I am reminded of Jesus and the disciples on the Sea of Galilee when a violent storm breaks out. The disciples grow increasingly anxious as the wind roars and the waves swell around them filling the boat with water. Jesus, the one who can save them, is asleep. Eventually the disciples wake him up, and watch as he commands the waves to retreat and the wind to die down. When the storm halts before their eyes at the words of his mouth, they are left shocked. They exclaim in Luke 8 v 25 (ESV), “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
This passage of scripture raises a multitude of heavy questions for me. If Jesus can so easily calm storms, then where is He when homes are destroyed, when belongings wash away or when loved ones are taken by storm? Rather than tackling that question head on, I would like to ask it in a different way. Where are we when water rises, wind picks up and the sky darkens? Or, to get even closer to the core of it, where was I when homes were destroyed in Harvey and bodies were crushed in landslides in Sierra Leone? Now physically, I was way away from the hurricanes, the landslides, the monsoons. I was breathing easy in upstate New York, wandering what to cook for dinner, but the extension of the power God, even at a distance, still has an expression. For one, there are platforms to donate money to these causes. Just in the past few days Walmart, Facebook and Google have all provided me with opportunities to give for disaster relief. Yet, there is another, often overlooked, way to be Jesus to people across the world.
In The Efficacy of Prayer by C.S. Lewis, one of the things that God has chosen to bestow on his followers is what Lewis terms the “dignity of causality.” In other words, according to Lewis, God has given us the almighty honor, through prayer, of being able to make things happen. This power is described by the words of Jesus in the book of John: “whoever believes in