This is going to be a long post. If you prefer short posts or only have so much time right now, try reading the next three paragraphs and then decide if you want to keep reading, come back later, or skip it.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, countless media reports, news stories, and political or religious evaluations have been offered. I’ve read a few, glanced at a few more, and scanned the titles of many others.
Many of the reports have simply provided news on the disaster. This helps us to be informed, to pray, and to give. Some of the other articles have analyzed the preparation and reaction of various regions, organizations, or political parties. Most of these latter articles are critical. They say things like: “The city engineers were presumptuous.” “People should have evacuated earlier.” “President Bush arrived too late.” “The media is forgetting about Mississippi.” Whether Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, resident or foreigner, organization or individual, you’ll be blamed for something. Now, are there people (both individuals and groups) that should be called to account for foolishness, callousness, or negligence? Certainly. But the bigger question in my mind is:
Who do we think we are? Can a city engineer stop the hand of the Almighty? Are early evacuation plans force-fields against the breath of God? Is deliverance found in the might and position of the President? And if the media remembered Mississippi, would Mississippi somehow be miraculously delivered from the catastrophe that the Lord has brought? I am not disturbed by the fact that many people are scrutinizing what was or wasn’t done to prevent the damage done by Hurricane Katrina. What I’m bothered by is the presupposition that we could have prevented it, and next time we will. Make no mistake: The Lord has done this. “Hurricane Katrina” is just a naturalistic label slapped onto an act of God by a culture that demands its own sovereignty. Again, I say: The Lord has done this. I do not say it lightly. I say it with trembling and with heart bowed low.
Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment?
Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey?
Does a young lion growl from his den unless he has captured something?
Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground when there is no bait in it?
Does a trap spring up from the earth when it captures nothing at all?
If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble?
If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it? – Amos 3:3-6
You do not prevent acts of God. You tremble before them. You do not obstruct the wind of God. You fall before it (and all those who stand in their arrogance are leveled). You cannot barricade the swirling waters. You put your hand on your mouth and you cry out for mercy.
We are nothing before God. The nations are nothing before Him (Isaiah 40:17). He rules us, just like He rules the wind and the skies and the seas. The wind is His breath and He rides the skies like a chariot. He enclosed the sea with thousands of miles of shoreline, saying to the ocean, “Thus far you shall come, but no farther, and here shall your proud waves stop” (Job 38:8, 11).
What about you? Have you mapped out the underwater caves beneath the continents or walked through the Marianas Trench (Job 38:16)? Do the pregnant clouds answer to the sound of your voice (Job 38:34)? Can you send a whirlwind, much less speak out of one (Job 38:1; 40:6)? And what do you have to say about the floods which no man has been able to control, slow, or even fathom these past few weeks?
The floods have lifted up, O Lord.
The floods have lifted up their voice,
The floods lift up their pounding waves.
More than the sounds of many waters,
Than the mighty breakers of the sea,
The Lord on high is mighty. – Psalm 93:3-4
The staggering thing about all of this is that these things are nothing special for God. We are just glimpsing into a telescope. “Behold, these are the fringes of His ways” (Job 26:14).
Friends, please understand: I am all for advanced tsunami warning systems and wise city engineers and state-sponsored seismologists. But I cannot add my voice to those who audaciously assume that next time will be different. No, friends. Next time will be the same. God is calling for our hearts, not our revised prevention plans. He wants our Christ-centered repentance, not our man-centered schemes. He wants us to lean on Him, not on new-fangled barometers or redesigned cities or rebuilt levees.
For far too long, we in America have gorged ourselves on our perceived sovereignty. After every disaster, we clean up, forget our vulnerability, and proclaim that we have learned and are prepared for the next “natural” disaster. When will we learn? What will it take? When will we put away the wine of arrogance, the wine that has made us so drunk with presumption? We are not invincible. We are at the mercy of God. He is merciful, to be sure, but He also stands opposed to the proud (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). And we—the proud—are not much opposition for Him.
Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble. – Isaiah 40:24
Will “next time” find you more humanly prepared or more divinely humbled? I pray—for you and for myself—that we will be not prepared instead of being humbled but that we will be prepared because we are humbled.
“Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.” – Psalm 32:6