Did God "send" Hurricane's Harvey and Irma? Does God "send" school shootings to "test us" or tornadoes and volcanoes to "call people home" or as punishment for our sins? No. This is a modern (or rather, childish and Ancient) misconception, resulting in a gross misreading of Scripture.
God "shows no partiality and accepts no bribes." (Deut. 10:17) and we know that God is not in the storms, the winds, or the earthquakes (1 Kings 19:11-13.) Jesus tells us that God makes the sun, "rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matt. 5:45.) Our God, therefore, is not a mere angry "storm deity."
Prayer cannot bribe God to turn away a hurricane, typhoon, flood, or tornado, and God isn't the agent of death who sends these things to "punish" us. God, says the author of the Book of Job, "shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of His hands." And there is no "shifting or shadow" in God, writes James, the brother of Jesus (James 1:7.)
Most critically, Jesus - God's anointed spokesman - demolishes the idea that God is partial and uses Nature to punish us, as if we somehow bring Nature's wrath upon us by our behavior. He was asked by the disciples, "'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:2-3)
In the book of Luke, Jesus uses two examples of disasters - a tower falling in Siloam and Pilate "mingling blood" with the Jews' sacrifices - to dispel the myth that our sins cause disasters (Luke 13:1-5.)
So, these words of Jesus tell us all we need to know about the cause of Natural disasters, birth defects, and all of the things with which we struggle in our lives.
God is not in the disaster, but He is in the recovery.
In English, the word "weather" can be both a noun and a verb. The weather is an active, impersonal Natural force that acts upon us. But we are also said to be able to "weather" a storm or a tragedy.
We weather these storms by drawing upon the strength God has implanted within us at birth, but also be calling upon God to strengthen our resolve and endurance in times of trouble.
It is for this latter reason that James writes that we should consider it "all joy" when turmoil comes at us, because this adversity teaches us to become steadfast, and that leads us to become more perfect and complete (James 1:2-4.) Through the storms - whether they are Natural or the kind we encounter in our daily lives - we should rely upon God for wisdom and strength.
Jesus makes it clear that we are to be the agents of God on earth - bringing in the Kingdom of Heaven with our Good Works: Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter, comforting the prisoner, and responding to those who are in distress.
The face of God is the expression of love and comfort the rescue worker gives to those in need following a Natural disaster, and in the food, clothing and shelter we provide, not in the wind, rain and tumult of the storm.
Let us give thanks that we know a God Who is not The Storm, but is the Comforter after the storm!
Image: Christian Science Monitor