Few living in land locked regions or geography, where the wrath of natural disasters like hurricanes or tsunamis are rare, or unknown, understand the impact of such catastrophic events. This past week America witnessed Hurricane Ian’s 160 mph wind and water level the Florida coastal town of Fort Myers, and cut-off access to Sanibel Island from the mainland, after the destruction of the Sanibel Causeway, stranding 6300 residents, who were left vulnerable to Ian’s assault. It revealed the risk of living on barrier islands, or the near the Gulf of Mexico. Sadly, the death toll rises daily as residents are still in shock, trying to rebuild their lives.
There’s already a rush to judgment before the rubble is cleared. Some are questioning whether the warning to Lee County was sufficient time to evacuate. Officials promise an investigation. Sadly, global warming will get as much attention as lost lives. Most of us watched dumbfounded by the devastation. One reporter on the ground, surrounded by rubble and yachts stacked atop each other, compared it to “a war zone.” today.com compared the damage to Sanible Island, quoting Dana Souza, Sanible’s city manager, “The damage is catastrophic and it is biblical.” It’s unclear what’s biblical about it. Was it a reference to the Genesis Flood? Another commentator used the term “flooding of biblical proportion.” Was it referring to the universal flood, in Genesis, the one that both scoffer and naysayer roundly dismiss as fable or myth?
It’s only a matter of time before the age old questions surface, “How could God let this happen?” “If God is loving, why would he allow such devastation?” One post placed the blame squarely on Governor DeSantis, asking “Why did he let this happen?” Giving God a brief reprieve from blame. Another CBS reporter, on the ground, called it “apocalyptic.” Did he mean resembling the end of the world? Is there a countervailing scenario?
In 1966, The Beach Boys recorded, “God Only Knows,” expressing their lyrical, undying love of some blonde California surfer girl, no doubt, in effusive language, admitting, “God only knows what I’d do without you.” God must’ve felt pretty smart. Brian Wilson and the Boys acknowledged that there’s somethings elusive to we mere mortals, that only God knows. That’s a solid reminder as we explore the realm of such conundrums like “Why did Hurricane Ian hit Florida?” The Beach Boys were wise to avoid wading into a deep theological quagmire, beyond their pay grade, to ask “Why?” As many engage in ancient debate, experts describe it as a massive disaster, and adding, “It’s going to take years to rebuild and recover.” The cost will be astronomical. President Biden has promised more money. FEMA’s notorious for slow walking survivors. Private sector generally delivers better, cheaper and quicker.
For the embattled residents of Florida, millions are without water or electricity, nothing will be soon enough for them. How long will it take to remove the debris? Fortunately, it didn’t compare to Katrina in 2005, when nearly 1200 perished, and wreaked havoc on New Orleans, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, the Bahamas and Cuba. Those cold facts offer scant comfort to those languishing in Florida, most of whom lost every material possession they owned. Advance notice was no match for the massive hurricane.
It’s only a matter of time before some survivors will see God’s hand in their survival, as a blessing from God-some will blame and curse Him. Those who know God’s character, will once again be able to be thankful for their life, in the midst of devastation and material loss. It’s unlikely that many Floridians knew about the anti-diluvian world that was under water for 150 days. The Ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat, in present day Turkey. This occurred in space and time. A location mentioned in various Old Testament passages, in the land of Armenia. Ancient Assyrian documents likewise speak of the Kingdom of Ararat. It’s not a mythical, fairytale land, like Narnia, but one well known, linked to past and present history-from the Bible to the an 8th century BC account, found in the epics of Homer’s reference to the Flood. God intervened and sent a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided. He still works in our quotidian existence His Way. Our inner longing can only be satisfied by Christ Jesus.
Noah dispatched a dove to confirm when the waters had abated. Today, even for those who scoff at this Genesis account, the dove with a branch in its mouth, is universally used to signify peace. Those who take heart in this account, are convinced that the same God will heal the land in Florida. Staunch believers understand it’s a matter of His purpose. Is God obligated to stop devastating events like Ian to be considered loving? What about lightning storms that ignite fires, yet decorate the sky and dazzle our senses? Or torrential rain that cause flash floods, yet quell fires in the tinderbox dry Western states? Or stop massive snow storms that cripple traffic, stranding motorists, yet provide moisture for millions? It’s understood, that natural laws are rules of order that govern His creation. He doesn’t always contravene that order.
When faced with gritty, inconsolable questions, one may find solace in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My Ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And my thoughts than your thoughts.” Although this cataclysmic event has left thousands homeless, we’ll watch Americans rushing to the aid of others, unselfishly giving, risking one’s safety for another, undaunted by one’s race, economic status, ethnic background, or political affiliation. It will hold no sway with the indefatigable efforts of rescuers. Biden and DeSantis may invoke a momentary truce.
After the Genesis Flood, Noah worshipped the Lord. Many survivors will do the same. Americans will respond magnanimously to the unimaginable plight of those caught in that would-be grave unleashed by Hurricane Ian. Various private agencies will pull together as Americans do in such times. Samaritan’s Purse will be on the ground with helping hands, needed resources, and the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ.
His purposes will be revealed somewhere down the corridor of time and eternity. There’s a flow to history-events tragic and triumphant. Man’s plight isn’t just physical and material. It’s moral and spiritual. This hurricane in Florida will reveal the best in America. Looters reveal the worst. Why does the best in us surface during the worst events? Even Fallen Man wears His mark, and has moral motions. God’s Word, His Promises and His oracles aren’t dictated by weather, or baseless charges lodged at Him. Remember, we don’t know everything. Next time cryptic, insoluble events stymie you, admit it, “The Beach Boys were right.” What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org