People are suffering. People are dying. People’s lives are being destroyed. In the wake of Harvey’s wrath, people’s lives will be forever changed. So what is God doing? Doesn’t He care that so many people are suffering? Where is God when people need Him?
Let’s humbly seek the answers from Scripture.
1. God May Be Weeping. When God became flesh and dwelt among us in the form of Christ (John 1:1-5, 14), we learned a great deal about God’s character. Specifically, we see some occasions that caused Jesus to weep. Let’s break these down.
First, Jesus wept when others were suffering (John 11:32-35). We probably remember the situation. Jesus’ friend Lazarus has died. It was several days later when Jesus made it there (vs. 17). When He arrived He saw His close friend Mary and many others weeping (vs. 33). Jesus was so touched and moved with compassion because of their suffering that it brought Him to the point of weeping as well (vs. 35). See, Christ is weeping even though He knows He is about to raise Lazarus from the dead! Harvey is causing unfathomable pain to people. Judging from Christ’s reaction when seeing people in pain, God is also deeply touched and saddened by the current suffering.
Second, Jesus wept when a city was about to go through suffering (Luke 19:41-44). Knowing all things as He did, Christ knew that Jerusalem was going to be destroyed in the near future. Let’s remember this was not just any city, this was Jerusalem. The Holy City. The capital of Judaism. The central hub where God’s chosen people lived. But this was also the city that had turned from God, rejected Christ, and was even about to murder Him. The end result was going to be the city’s destruction. Yet, even in their disobedience, Christ wept over them. Their suffering was not bringing Him any sort of vengeance-laced pleasure. Now, there is no reason to think that God is punishing Houston specifically. In fact, there are many other obvious cities that would be in line before Houston (New York, Chicago, L.A). But if His sorrow over Jerusalem’s impending destruction is any indication, God is quite sorrowful for the cities being destroyed by Harvey.
Please understand I’m not saying God is literally weeping up in heaven (Revelation 21:4). What I’m saying is that God isn’t sitting up in heaven enjoying the scene in Houston. Instead, He is likely moved with compassion because of their suffering. God cares when people suffer.
2. God May Be Waiting. I’m not saying that God is waiting before He steps in to help. In fact, who is to say He isn’t already helping? What we’re really talking about here is that through this event God may be waiting to see what people do in the midst of this suffering. Will some get angry with God? Will some prove to be servants? Will some become embittered against God? Will some turn to Him for help and comfort? Will some turn to Him to be saved?
More than anything else God is waiting and hoping for people to turn to Him for help. 2 Peter 3:9 says it clearly, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
Some people might be hoping that God is going to take the pain and suffering away. Others might be hoping that God steps in and brings sudden and incredible healing on those hurt by this hurricane. But what God Himself is hoping for is that people will see that this life is temporary and that He is offering us something that is eternal (Matthew 6:19-21). God will be waiting, ready to offer eternal life to those who come to Him as a result of this event.
3. God May Be Running. The unfortunate reality is that we get complacent. Sometimes it takes our world getting uprooted just for us to see we’ve planted ourselves in the wrong spot. Such was the case with the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). He left his father, blew all his wealth on sinful and worldly living (vs. 13-14), and found himself planted in a job feeding pigs (vs. 15-16). It took this situation to get him to open his eyes and realize how good he had it with his father (vs. 17-18). So he returned. And how did his father react? Luke 15:20 lays it out for us, “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Through this difficult event, people may come to realize they have left God or that they need God. When they turn to Him, God will be running towards them with open arms.
Hurricane Harvey is a tragic event. People will need our love, support, and above all, our prayers. God is not at all absent during this time of pain. God isn’t hiding. God isn’t smiling in vengeance. Rather, God is offering people help, eternal help.
Here is a very difficult pill to swallow: God never promises us a good life on earth. If there were no problems here, then this life would basically be heaven. While not necessarily causing them, God uses traumatic events to show us through contrast just how much better heaven will be.
So where is God during this event? He is sorrowful as people suffer, but wants us to use this event to see that there will be no suffering in heaven. He is waiting for us to turn to Him for help so He can bring us to the place where there is no pain. And He is willing to run towards us when we do finally turn to Him. God is very much present in this situation if we’re willing look.
God is loving and kind. Even in the midst of Hurricane Harvey, He is offering us free entry into a place where there will be no suffering for the rest of eternity (Romans 6:23; Acts 2:38). Will we accept His offer?