Lessons from the Storm- Reflections on Hurricane Sandy

hurricane-sandy-global-viewEarly on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall upon the US, unleashing its fury upon the inhabitants of NJ, NY and surrounding states. Dubbed by the media as “Superstorm Sandy”, this tempest of historic proportions was seven days in the making, having originated in the Caribbean before it began its deliberate and intimidating march up the coast. When it reached NJ, it made a “hard left” as if it had that state and neighboring NY in its sights. The size and intensity of this “perfect storm”, named for a number of climatic and geographical factors that strengthened its force and damage potential was indeed immense. More than 1,100 miles in width, it packed sustained winds of over 110 mph (sustained winds are defined as over one minute in duration).  It swept through seven countries including the US which was the hardest hit with twenty-four states being affected from Florida to Maine, Maryland to Wisconsin and everywhere in between.

The aftermath has truly been devastating: loss of life, flooding, property damage and loss of power to millions for days and even weeks in one of the most concentrated population centers in the country, severely crippling major public transportation arteries and creating long lines at the gas pump. The widespread flooding caused by Sandy did not come from the rain, but from tidal surges that resulted from water being “pushed” across the bays and through the inlets by the fierce winds. Many of NJ and NY coastal communities were completely devastated.  Initial estimates for the damage were in excess of fifty billion dollars.  Along with loss of revenue from business interruption, it stands to be even higher. They will be talking about this storm for years to come.

Reflecting on this event (and the highly unusual snow storm in the area that followed a little more than a week later), I could not help from making some important spiritual parallels.  John 3:8 states that the wind “…bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth…” (John 3:8). It was very evident that no one could tell where the wind would blow next; otherwise they would have taken even greater precautions. But there was no doubt as to where it had been after the fact. The weather forecasters did their best to warn the population that a significant storm was coming, but exactly where it would hit was anyone’s guess.  Man can try his best to predict the operations of God, but the final say is His. The words that kept coming to me were “the Lord has His way in the wind”.  Before any damage was even realized, there was a sense that despite what would happen, the Lord would fulfill his purposes regardless of how those purposes played out. For some it was utter devastation.  Could God be baring His arm of judgment?  That was the initial reaction, but as in the case of Job’s critics, caution should prevail in making such a statement. Who knows the mind of the Lord?  Some very fine people suffered in this weather event. There were probably a lot of not-so-fine people who also suffered.  Whether God allowed this to happen in their lives as a corrective is not up to us to determine.  If anything, it should move us who know the Lord to be quick to “maintain good works” (Titus 3:8) as a means to opening the door for Gospel testimony.

The day following the storm as our family ventured out by car to view the “disaster zone”, we discovered to our surprise at the number of trees that had come down in our town. We lost more than a dozen trees in the woods behind our home, thankful that the wind was whipping the trees in the opposite direction from our house. For others, it was definitely a case of a “near miss”. To our amazement, we saw that some of them narrowly missed houses, garages and sheds. There was even a yard in which a huge tree had fallen over and had stopped inches short of nearly crushing an expensive-looking garage. I am sure that that family and others who also experienced near misses were very thankful!  Why some suffered and others did not, no one knows, (Acts 12:2-3), but the goodness of God could be declared nevertheless with the spiritual lesson that many of us have also narrowly averted disaster in our lives if it were not for the grace of God.

Others however, were not so fortunate. In a marina only a half mile away, (we were that close), boats were strewn about like toys, driven by the rising tide and fierce winds as they broke free from their moorings. They ended up in the woods or leaning against telephone poles on the other side of town – a strange site to behold. There is a spiritual lesson in this as well. How many have we known through the years who though they seemed to be spiritually anchored, ended up “in the woods” after a significant event or trial in their lives. They ended up shipwrecked because they were not sufficiently moored. (Could I have helped to strengthen the lines?)  In the wave of liberal teaching that has swept across the spiritual landscape in recent years, the “Emerging Church” et al, there have been scores of professing Christians, who because of insufficient mooring have been taken under by the wave of this damaging influence. Like Superstorm Sandy, this “storm” started out small, somewhere in the sea of humanity.  It caught the attention of only by a few, gained strength and eventually wreaked havoc on a multitude of vulnerable souls. Sadly, they have been “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine and sleight of men and cunning craftiness”, Eph. 4:14. Like the rest of the populace, they should have heeded the words of “forecasters” who have adequately warned to brace for the onslaught of perilous times and dangerous doctrine that will characterize the latter days, 2 Tim. 3:1-12. Regardless, some did not take heed to themselves and the doctrine, 1 Tim. 4:16. They should have taken note of the “clouds without water, carried about by winds” and the “raging waves of the sea”, Jude 12-13. Perhaps they could have avoided much anguish. Unfortunately, they have been swept away in a flood or have fallen like the trees in this storm, another spiritual lesson.  I have noticed repeatedly that some trees fell down even though they were surrounded by other trees which were similar in width and height did not.  It seemed as if they had some hidden defect. Some large trees fell, some small trees. They fell while the others remained. What was the difference?  They had strong roots and were planted in firm soil. The lessons go on and on!

Regardless of how people in this area were affected by this storm, whether directly or indirectly, one thing is certain, everyone was affected by this storm, one way or another.  Whether you believe or not in the “butterfly effect” (that even the smallest of things like the flapping of butterfly wings on one side of the earth can influence wind currents on the other side of the earth), we know that many have been affected by this storm, even if only by the news reports we hear and the empathy we feel by those directly influenced. Our hope is that through this event like other disasters that many will turn toward the Lord and not from Him and that we might have a part in that process.     

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