- Philippians 1:29 (ESV)
I was reminded this week of the powerful forces of God's nature as a major nor'easter swept along the mid-Atlantic coastline and into New England. The southern portion, from the Carolinas to Virginia and Maryland were largely spared major flooding, although there were high winds and rain in abundance. Inland areas, however, did receive significant snow in places as the dreams of an early Spring came crashing down. From northern New Jersey to New England, however, they were pounded unmercifully with some major flooding and damage caused by high winds and nearly two million people lost power. Damage reports and injuries and deaths, if any, will be determined in the next few days.
The storm was reminiscent of the Great Ash Wednesday storm in 1962 at this time of year. I will write more about that one in a special blog on Monday next, but suffice it to say that it was a major storm of its day that I remember well. And storms of this nature once again make us ask the question cited in the heading. What do such storms tell us about God and, further, what are we supposed to make of it? After all, we like to think about God as all loving and caring and if we don't understand His ways it makes many of us question His goodness and righteousness. Curiosity of this type is normal and healthy as long as we seek the answers from the right source, opening our hearts as we search for the answer in our communion with Him through His only Son, Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the verse from Philippians above tells us more than we want to know, but it is absolutely true and applicable. For while God is all knowing, caring and loving, He expects us to suffer as a means of making our faith stronger. After all, Jesus Christ suffered more violently and tragically than anyone else ever has. God realized it was necessary for Him to suffer if mortal man was to be cleansed of his sinful nature. Suffering is one of the ways that we can prove our worth since words are easy and cheap, but living up to them is something much greater. And if we truly believe through faith, then that very faith will bring us through tragedy, pain and suffering and build our perseverance and patience in standing for Him.
Now that's often hard to swallow, but it is Truth and God has promised that He will reward us in the end with Eternity for faithfulness and the time spent on earth suffering, be it from disaster, disease or whatever makes us suffer. Finding the strength and will to stand for Him through it all shows our real faith. Remember, it's easy to be faithful on Sunday morning in church among friends when we are healthy, our home is secure and we are well fed. But in those times of pain in whatever form it may take, He knows everything we do along the way.
We are free to respond in any way we wish, but if we stick to the righteous path in dealing with it and remember what is expected of us, it will comfort us and allow us to go onward. Neither storm, nor disease, nor the hate and ridicule of others can block our way. And in the end we will glory in the victory that standing with our Lord will ultimately provide.
Dear Lord, We thank you for you wisdom and love and ask that you help us to understand the link between freedom with you and the suffering and setbacks that we face on earth. And be with those people who faced so much adversity from nature this week and help them find the way to repairing their lives while keeping their Spirit in place. In Jesus name' we pray, Amen.