Hurricane Isaac is bearing down on the Gulf coast, resurrecting fearful memories of Katrina just as the seventh anniversary of that deadly tempest approaches. Ramifications are many: Isaac has already wreaked havoc with scheduling for the Republican National Convention in Tampa and threatens to overshadow the proceedings (I’ll pass on any cracks about competing with windy speeches: they’re common to all political conventions). Residents along the entire Gulf coast are stocking up on supplies and buttoning down the hatches.
As the first really scary storm of the season, Isaac reminds us how powerless we are when it comes to huge weather systems. There’s clear evidence, I think, that humans have influenced worldwide weather patterns through contributing to global warming, but we can’t start an individual storm, or stop one.
No doubt, many people are praying that Hurricane Isaac will shift its course away from their homes and towns, though they know that means the storm would just hit someone else: unpopulated areas of coastline are few and far between, and none are as large as the coming hurricane.
The Bible has a few things to say about wind and storm. All ancient religious attributed the weather to the gods, and the biblical view is no different: the flood accounts of Genesis 6-8, stories such as Samuel whistling up a God-produced thunderstorm in 1 Samuel 12, and the divine testimony found in Job 38-39 affirm a belief that God is capable of creating storms and flinging them with pinpoint accuracy. And, the account of Jesus stilling a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41) declares God’s ability to stop them.
But those are clearly rare exceptions to the rule. Qoheleth noted the cyclical nature of weather, including predictable changes in wind direction (Ecclesiastes 1:6). Jesus observed that “The wind blows where it will…” (John 3:8). Meteorologists are getting much better at predicting what storms will do, though it remains an imperfect science, for the wind does indeed blow where it will.
We can always pray for storms to shift away from us, whether it’s bad weather or personal troubles that we have in mind. We can pray for them to go away if we wish, but I suspect we will be better served if we learn to endure them when they come — for come they will.