I seem to remember several years ago hearing about Pat Robertson, of the Christian Broadcast Network, claiming to have redirected a hurricane away from his Virginia Beach headquarters. I know for sure that earlier this year he claimed to have prayed Hurricane Florence away from doing damage to his CBN and Regent University campus. I also remember on both occasions thinking about those folks who did end up being in the path of these storms, whose homes and property were destroyed by winds and flooding. Though it did avoid a direct hit on Virginia Beach, Hurricane Florence ravaged parts of North Carolina with record floods, bringing devastation to many lives and families. And if I remember correctly, the hurricane he prayed away many years ago ended up doing severe damage to areas in New York and New Jersey.
The news of hurricanes hitting the coast always brings bad news. So many lives are negatively impacted. People lose homes, businesses, possessions, etc. in addition to some probable deaths. But to be honest, I’m typically able to emotionally remove myself from these reports since I don’t live in those areas. But this most recent storm, Hurricane Michael, came and destroyed places from my childhood. I visited the Mexico Beach cottage of my elementary school best friend several times … that whole town is gone. The neighborhood in Panama City where I would frequently visit my aunt and uncle is unrecognizable. My cousin’s home in Liberty County sustained major damage. Even my hometown of Chattahoochee is forever changed by this storm. The list goes on and on of communities, families, businesses, people, etc. that were devastated by Michael. Did no one think to pray as Pat Robertson did? Is there no one in that area with great enough faith? Was God bringing judgment on the land of my childhood?
Of course, people of great faith prayed fervently to be spared, yet God, in HIs wise and good providence, answered those prayers with a “no” and the storm hit hard … very hard.
We know we live in a fallen world, full of brokenness and tragedy. We know hurricanes don’t necessarily represent God’s judgment on a particular location. And we know that one day hurricanes and all tragedy will come to an end. But until that day, we’re stuck with a fallen creation that is full of storms, death, injustice, accidents, cancer, brokenness, sickness, etc. And I’m beginning to wonder if we shouldn't change the way we pray. Perhaps instead of begging the Lord to turn the storm away from our path and into the path of others who will suffer, we should rather ask the Lord to be merciful to others and bring the suffering to us. That goes against every natural inclination of my heart! I also know that plenty of suffering is going to come our way without us requesting it, but still I wonder how to best pray about this stuff. I guess the bottom line for me is that I should learn to be less concerned about my own comfort and focus more on others, even asking God to show mercy to others even if it results in my own discomfort, pain, inconvenience, sacrifice, etc. I’m still learning what it means to follow Jesus.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. - Romans 8:18
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all - Psalm 34:19
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison - 2 Corinthians 4:17
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ - Galatians 6:2
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. - Revelation 21:4