A few days ago I was taking a refreshing fall jaunt in Grand Teton National Park, when I ran into some folks from Houston. I asked them how they were recovering after the Harvey deluge. One of them proceeded to philosophize boldly about the meaning of it all.
“Ok, so look at all this stuff happening. Houston has experienced three big floods in the past few years, including Harvey. Now Hurricane Irma. Plus all of these fires and things. You cannot tell me that something is not going on here, with all of these disasters. Something is happening.”
There is no doubt that recent times have seen a number of disasters. Just over a week ago, the world witnessed a semi-rare three hurricanes simultaneously in the Atlantic basin. Houston has experienced three “500 year flood events” in the past few years. Having dropped about 52 inches of rain locally and nine trillion tons of water, Harvey is considered a “1000 year or more” event. Irma is still deluging the States after devastating entire islands. While Americans were thus occupied, monsoon-related flooding in Asia exceeded the deaths, damaged, and displaced of the States. Water wasn’t the only carnaging culprit. Wildfires in Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho, California, and Utah brought unexpected havoc to the west. We could go on about wars, rumors of wars, and other mayhem.
But that hiking Houstonian philosopher was right: things are happening.
But the question is, what?
Many have postulated. And it’s probably best to conclude that theologian Al Gore is not inerrantly inspired. So is it the end times? Just about every generation makes that conclusion. And here we are.
But the thing that’s happening is this: we are no longer in the Garden of Eden. The threatless cool of the day is no longer everywhere, every day. You have to go to places like Key West to find it. But even that’s a risk.
In reality, there’s really not much going on. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.
This is not to say that eye-brow raising hardships are not happening. Nor is this in any way to minimize the tragedy of human suffering.
But this is all quite normal. Disasters and storms are the norm. And as difficult and damaging as recent hydro-cataclysms have been this year, Earth has seen worse. In 1975, Typhoon Nina killed about 229,000. In 1991, a cyclone in Bangledesh claimed 138,000. In 2008 Cyclone Nargis took over 138,000 lives. The infamous 2004 Boxing Day quake caused flooding which took about 250,000 lives. The 1970 Bhola Cyclone claimed 500,000. And, some millennia ago, that unequalled geological-meteorological event took the life of all humanity, save eight.
Let all the earth fear the Lord.
Sure, something is happening in 2017. But it’s something that’s nothing out of the ordinary. The thing that’s happening is that all creation remains under the curse of sin. Cyclones, sickness, and slayings are the symptoms of sin. This is the kind of existence that is the norm when image-bearers have high-handedly rebelled against their Creator.
This is what we should expect in a world whose beginnings were moral insurrection. The earth groans. Earth’s machinations have been rewired to be against us, instead of for us. The ground pushes back. And the sky, the sea, the animals, each other, and even our own bodies.
When humanity committed spiritual treason against God, everything shifted. It had to be this way. God must remain God. We must be regularly reminded that sin really is this big of a deal.
The world roars like an angry beast at times. It’s heart wrenching. But I suppose it could always roar louder. Why don’t we have Saturn-like hurricanes, which are 20 times larger than Earth’s, with winds over 300 mph? Or a climate like Mars?
Even more, why does God have an inkling of compassion for a hopelessly rebellious human race? Why food, water, enjoyment?
And why in the world would he send us a Savior?
The good news is, this presently groaning earth will one day be fixed. And for all who bow the knee in faith to the biblical Jesus Christ, so will they. When God stepped out of the immaculateness of heaven, he became a man, lived far from Eden, and dwelt among us. He then went to the cross to endure the worst of the curse; the crisp wrath of God due our sin. But then he rose, conquering the curse. By faith in him, all of this current normal will become foreign, so that all that is currently foreign to us now, will become the normal. Hallelujah!
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:18-23).