The President’s Column – How are we Christians to react to such catastrophes and upheavals in the realm of nature?
From the January / April 1996 issue of The Concordia Lutheran
The President’s Column
This last winter severe storms plagued many parts of our nation. Record-breaking rainfalls, freezing temperatures, snowfalls, etc., occurred in the various states of our country. In our part of the Pacific northwest, for example, heavy rains caused swollen rivers to unleash their fury by inundating large sections of our State of Oregon. Some sections were so devastated that the governor declared them “disaster areas” and applied for federal aid. There were those who lost their homes and possessions to the rampaging rivers. The high water caused mudslides, closing some of our main highways, and resulted in fallen trees where the soil had been weakened by the flooding. One elderly couple had worked so hard to build a home to live in during their declining years only to have it demolished by the raging flood waters. Some even lost their lives. A 9-year-old girl, for example, went out to the mail box and never returned. A woman drove her car to go to the store. Later her automobile was found submerged in water, but there was no trace of the woman. The stories are manifold!
How are we Christians to react to such catastrophes and upheavals in the realm of nature? We must, first of all, recognize the consequences of sin. Not only was man ruined by the Fall of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, but the whole realm of nature experienced the consequences of sin! The first great upheaval recorded in the Scriptures is that of the Flood which encompassed the whole earth. What a catastrophe that must have been when “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened … and the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights … all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died” (Gen. 7:11,12). That sin of which our first parents were guilty was not without its consequences as the world has witnessed ever since in the catastrophic upheavals within the realm of nature: electrical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, etc. Such manifestations of God’s righteous anger because of sin should prompt us to walk humbly before God by daily repenting of our sins and casting ourselves upon His mercy revealed in the sending forth of His only-begotten Son whose precious blood cleanses us from all sin.
Such upheavals within the realm of nature should also serve to remind us Christians that the Day of the Lord is nigh at hand in which the heavens and earth will be destroyed by fire. Luther correctly observed: “Heaven and earth creak and crack like an old house ready to crash and collapse and act in every way as though they divined that the world is soon to come to an end and that The Day is close at hand” (St. Louis Ed. Vol. VII: 1480f.). These disturbances within the realm of nature should cause us to lift up our eyes heavenward, and with anxious hearts look for our dear Savior who will burst forth in the clouds of heaven accompanied by all of His holy angels (Matthew 24) to take us into His heavenly Kingdom which He has prepared for us from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25).
When the fury of such occurrences is unleashed within the realm of nature, we Christians need not cower in fear and despair. After all, He who created heaven and earth has promised the true believers that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He reminds His dear children that they are privileged to enjoy the gracious protection of His holy angels who will keep us in all our ways (Ps. 91:11). Therefore let us heed the Scriptural advice of that fine Lutheran hymn writer, Paul Gerhardt –
Into the gracious hands
Of Him who never leaves thee,
Who heav’n and earth commands.
Who points the clouds their courses,
Whom winds and waves obey,
He will direct thy footsteps
And find for thee a way.
TLH 520, v.1
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor M. L. Natterer, President