Hurricane Irma: Divine Judgment or Natural Disaster?

by Steve Higginbotham

As I am writing this article, Hurricane Irma is just hours away from hitting the Florida coast. For days now, we have been forewarned of the devastating impact this storm is going to have. It has already left a trail of death and destruction, and without question will cause much more death and destruction before it dissipates.

In times like these, people often ask, “Is this storm a judgment of God?”  “Is it God’s way of getting our attention?” “Is God disciplining us for our sins?” These are all good and fair questions that deserve answers.

In answer to these questions, some immediately dismiss the questions as the ramblings of religious radicals.  Who could believe such superstitious nonsense in this day and age? We’re quickly reminded that these are just natural phenomenon and are a part of the world in which we live.  However, have we forgotten how God has chosen to use natural phenomenon to achieve his purposes?  What about Noah’s flood (Genesis 6:17), Elijah’s whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11), and Jonah’s storm (Jonah 1:4)? You see, God has at times, chosen to use natural phenomenon to fulfill his purposes, so don’t be so quick to dismiss such possibilities.

So then, am I suggesting that Hurricane Irma is the judgment of God? No, I am not. The only way I know that Noah’s flood, Elijah’s whirlwind, and Jonah’s storm were acts of God is because the text tells me so. Apart from God’s revelation, one might have thought those events to simply be chance and natural phenomenon. And since God isn’t revealing himself like he once did, we have no way of speaking authoritatively as to whether any natural phenomenon is God’s judgment or just nature being nature.

While we don’t prefer it, sometimes the best and most accurate answer to a biblical question is, “I don’t know.” What I do know, however, is that when these natural phenomenon occur, whether they are chance or a part of God’s plan, we have an opportunity to live out our faith and show the kindness and compassion of Christ to those who are hurting.

Whether Hurricane Irma is an “act of God,” we’ll never know. Whether Hurricane Irma is used as an opportunity to reach out to the hurting with kindness and compassion is up to you.