Did God send the fires to California this week?
Did He send the latest earthquake, or the hurricanes through Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast in recent weeks?
After all, there is usually a vociferous television preacher (and perhaps a local pastor) who will articulate such thoughts, right?
The level-headed amongst us want to dive right in and protest, "No, God isn’t that kind of God." But those of us who take the Bible seriously have some explaining to do if we stand by the “God is always really nice” theory. He has used natural disasters in the past, if Scripture is to be believed—Noah’s flood and the plagues upon Egypt being just two vivid examples.
Which brings us to Charles Wesley, the lesser-known, hymn-writing brother of John. The Rev. Wesley published a sermon in 1750—The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes. Spoiler alert—Wesley says earthquakes are the work of the Lord (sin is the cause and the effect is His anger) and the cure is ...
"Call upon Him now, O sinner! and continue instant in prayer, till he answer thee in peace and power! Wrestle for the blessing! Thy life, thy soul, is at stake! Cry mightily unto Him, — Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me! God be merciful unto me a sinner! Lord, help me! Help my unbelief! Save, or I perish! Sprinkle my troubled heart! Wash me thoroughly in the fountain of thy blood; guide me by thy Spirit; sanctify me throughout, and receive me up into glory!"
Charles Colson wrote a book titled Who Speaks for God? He started the volume by recalling a New York bishop who addressed a gay rights demonstration with these unequivocal words: “AIDS is not God’s judgment on the homosexual community.” The next day, the predictable response came from others in the religious camp—incensed because AIDS was, indeed, God’s judgment on behavior clearly outside the ethical boundaries given in His Word. All of which led Colson to ponder, “Who does speak for God?”
After Katrina hit the Mississippi coast, some preachers pronounced God’s judgment while others even more adamantly proclaimed that God would never do such a thing.
Dr. Chris Lohrstorfer, academic dean at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, observes, “I don’t think we can say definitively God causes natural disasters, but He definitely can use things like earthquakes and fires when they come to get our attention.”
Here’s betting He can both cause and use whatever He chooses. If we wonder what in the world He might be saying in any given situation, it might behoove us to recall, and meditate upon, Charles Wesley’s admonition.
God is speaking. And when fire, wind and tectonic shifts invade our world, He might further move us to pray, and repent.