Lessons to be learned from Harvey and Irma


The NOAA satellite GOES-16 captured this geocolor image of Hurricane Irma passing the eastern end of Cuba at about 8 a.m. EDT on Sept. 8. NOAA/CIRA

My heart goes out to all those who have been negatively impacted by the recent hurricanes that swept through the Caribbean and onto the U.S. mainland. Harvey, Irma, and the consequent tornados have wrought havoc in Texas, Florida, and some contiguous states.

We can lament the torrential rain and howling winds and ask, “Why has this befallen us?” We can complain about damaged property and dwell on the loss of electricity and the inconvenience of preparing for the storm and problem of cleaning up after the storm.

But why not think about the lessons we can learn from a hurricane? Here are five things we can learn from Harvey and Irma:

Hurricanes can teach us that we are not in control.

No human power can control the wind and waves. However, we know Jesus calmed a storm. All three Synoptic Gospels tell us that story. Jesus was weary and had gone to sleep in the midst of the storm, but the disciples, some of whom were professional fishermen, were frightened by the storm and feared that they might die.

However, with one quick word from Christ, the storm abated and the sea became calm. This should be immensely comforting to the Christian in a storm. Faith in Christ is never misplaced. If He can calm the storms of the sea with one word, He can calm the storms of life as well.

You might ask, “If God is in control then why does he allow bad things to happen?” Though it is within the Lord’s power to give everyone a perfect existence, that wouldn’t be in our best interest. Trials and suffering often drive people to the Father. And for those of us who are already His followers, God sometimes uses harsh circumstances to mature our faith and conform us to the image of His Son.

Hurricanes can teach us what is important.

We live in a materialistic society and to many people their “stuff” seems to be more important than life itself. Thousands of people in the path of Hurricane Irma stated their intention to remain in their homes to make sure their property was protected – as if they had the power to protect it in the first place.

Jesus said, “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”(Mark 8:36) Perhaps you have seen bumper stickers that read, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. All the “things” we accumulate in our lives are no more than premature junk.

Jesus said, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harlan Sanders said, “Why would you want to be the richest man in the cemetery, you can’t do any business there?”

A wise saying goes that money can buy a house, but not a home; food, but not an appetite; medicine, but not wellness; books, but not brains; a bed, but not sleep; amusement, but not happiness; and religion, but not salvation. So, hurricanes can help us realize what is really important.

Hurricanes can teach us that we are in this together.

A prime illustration of this is that President Donald Trump and the Democrat leaders in the Senate struck a deal to provide a relief package to the region devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

The relationship between the President and the Democrats since his inauguration has been like the Hatfields and the McCoys. Acrimony, hostility, and caustic words mark the relationship. However, the hurricane brought the opposing political leaders together to do something good for the country.

If President Trump and the Chuck Schumer/Nancy Pelosi coalition can get together, there is hope for the Jews and Palestinians, for Batman and the Joker, and for the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.

So, a common objective, a common enemy, a common cause has the potential of making rivals into partners, of making adversaries into allies, and making foes into friends. I am sorry it took vast and destructive storms to bring us together, but it is good that for at least awhile the divided states of America became the United States of America again.

Hurricanes can teach we are to let our lights shine.

Jesus urged us to let our light to shine before men (Matthew 5:16). As children we learned the little song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” We are not to hide our light under a bushel. We must let it shine, especially in times of need.

How will people see that light? Through our good works.

When people are going through a storm they are vulnerable, needy, and searching. They need true godly examples before them to shine brightly and offer help, friendship, and the hope that transcends the troubles caused by the storm.

The German atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more redeemed.” The storm gives believers the perfect opportunity to look redeemed as they let their light shine through ministries of grace and helpfulness.

Hurricanes teach us that God has the power to judge mankind

Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church, has explained, “Natural disasters remind us that severe judgment is coming.”

Natural disasters may be nothing more than natural disasters, but God sends extreme weather to get our attention and warn us of the judgment to come. However, it might be worth noting that at least three or four natural disasters will accompany the return of Jesus to Earth.

The Bible says, "For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn…” (Matthew 24:27–30).  

Well, I am sure there are other lessons to be learned. We just lost our electricity this Monday morning at 6:16, and I have already learned that I don’t love darkness better than light.

Disaster Relief, Harvey, Houston, hurricanes, Irma