by Rev. Daniel J. Feusse
Where can you find the glory of God in a hurricane? Some might say that if God caused the hurricane to happen the glory of God might be found in the massive destruction brought on by the hurricane. “What an awesome God we have! Just look what He can do when He puts His mind to it! Can you imagine what kind of destruction He could bring about if He were really angry?”
But this kind of thinking brings us to some troubling questions, doesn't it? Is this really the kind of God that we have? A God that would send a terrible hurricane to wipe out an entire region of our country? A God who takes out His anger by the brutal killing of thousands of people and the massive destruction of property? A God that waits for us to do a bunch of things that He doesn't like and then arbitrarily dishes out His punishment upon us? And, by the way, how sinful must those people in New Orleans have been to cause God to be so angry that He wiped out the entire city? What might He do to us because of our sin?
These questions are indeed troubling. But what lies behind each of them is “why?” Why did this happen? The answer is deceptively simple, but one which is hard to face. This hurricane happened for the same reason that all natural disasters happen – we live in a fallen world. It is not the Lord who brought this destruction on the Gulf coast – somehow plotting His perfect revenge upon a particularly sinful part of our country. No. This happened because all of creation now suffers as a result of that first rebellious act in the Garden of Eden. Disease, war, pestilence, earthquakes, floods – these are all the writhings and groanings of a fallen world.
But this then raises another question. Why didn't God stop this from happening? Do we really have a God that is powerless against the destructive forces of this world? The answer to this question is also deceptively simple, and is also one which is difficult to face. It is through the evil and suffering in this world – it is through the continual writhing and groaning of a fallen creation – that the glory of God is seen the clearest.
The glory of God is not found in the awesome power of a category five hurricane. Rather, the glory of God is seen the clearest in the face of suffering and death. “This sickness...is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” These are the words of Jesus speaking about the impending death of Lazarus.
Again, we have the account of the man born blind in John chapter nine:
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
The blindness of this man was the result of being born into a sinful, fallen world. It is not the Lord punishing this man for some horrible sin that he or his parents had committed. But what Jesus is telling His disciples here is that God will be glorified through this man's earthly suffering.
This then leads us to the ultimate glorification of God. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” Jesus tells His disciples in the John, chapter twelve. What will show the greatest glory of God will be the suffering and death of His Son, Jesus Christ? Jesus will glorify His Father by going to Cross to suffer and die for all that is evil and sinful – for all that is fallen in His creation.
The glory of God is not seen in the awesome power of earthquakes, floods or hurricanes. The glory of God is seen in the suffering and death of Christ for this world. When people have nothing left in this world upon which they can rely, their only hope is found in Cross of Jesus Christ.
To His glory, our Lord uses the earthly realities of this fallen creation to turn us toward our spiritual need for Christ and His mercy and forgiveness. The highest praise and glory that we can offer to the Lord is by turning to Him in all helplessness – with nothing left in this world to cling to – crying out in faith and trust, “Lord, have mercy,” and then seeking the answer to our utter helplessness in Jesus Christ our Savior.
Why did this happen? Was the Lord was punishing New Orleans and the Gulf coast because the people there were such great sinners? No. This happened because we live in a fallen world, and in a fallen world these things are bound to happen time and again. But when things like this do happen, the Lord is glorified through them. In suffering and death, the face of Jesus Christ is seen. We are reminded of our utter helplessness in this world and are turned to the One who is our only hope in time of need – the One is the very glory of God, Jesus Christ.
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." These are the words spoken by Jesus the night before His crucifixion. Three days later, He rose from the tomb showing His victory over sin and death – even over all that is fallen and wrong with the creation itself. To you this peace – this victory – has been given in Holy Baptism as you have been crucified and resurrected with Jesus. You also then, with Christ, have overcome the world.
Rev. Daniel J. Feusse is pastor at Concordia Lutheran Church in Clearwater, Nebraska. His email is Seelsorg@aol.com.