“Wait, what?! Did he just say Houston could receive over 50 inches of rain?!” I don’t remember where I was when I heard that a hurricane was headed toward the Texas coast, but I do remember stopping in my tracks at the news report that Houston could receive over 50 inches of rain. I was born in Houston and lived there for 5 years prior to moving to Denton. If you have lived in Houston then you know the city is flat and right at sea level, thus a heavy rain can cause flash floods.
Like you, I have a lot of thoughts on the hurricane. I am heartbroken for the people of south Texas, especially my friends down there. However, our country remains in a very divisive place and it has been incredibly heartwarming to watch people come together since Harvey hit.
Many of us have been wondering what God is doing through Hurricane Harvey. It can be hard to reconcile the goodness of God in the face of such heartbreaking devastation. A tragedy of the magnitude of Harvey can cause us to question if God is good. If you live in Houston it might feel like God isn’t even real! What is God doing through all this destruction? What does Hurricane Harvey mean?
We never want to presume what God is doing or saying, which is why the Bible is so important during tragedies. Romans 8:18-25 reads:
(18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (19) For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (20) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (23) And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (24) For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
The Bible teaches us some basic things about where we come from and the nature of God. We know the Bible acknowledges that God simply is rather than trying to prove him with lengthy arguments (Genesis 1:1, Exodus 3:14). We know that God created all things out of nothing (John 1:3). We also know that he created for his glory (Psalm 19:1-2). But, we also know that the Fall of humanity did not just poison people but also poisoned the rest of creation (Genesis 3:17-19).
Thus, since the Fall, creation has been groaning for something better. A groan is a painful longing for something better. We groan because we are in pain. Creation is in pain. Creation is not as it should be. Hurricane Harvey is a reminder that this world is not as it should be. Those flooded homes are glaring symbols of the brokenness that marks our world.
However, the hope of Romans 8 and the good news for Houstonians is that this world is not our home! This world is like a young mother in the agonizing hours of labor. Yet, there is a hope of something beautiful and glorious on the other side of the pain. Devastation is not all that there is! Glory awaits!
Maybe a way to think of this is in terms of a continuum of degrees. Imagine a line of numbers running negatively to the left while running positively to the right. The negative side are those bad things that happen to us. The worse the incident the further down the continuum they land. Stumping your toe is a -4 but losing your house is a -4,000. Romans 8 is promising a glory that not only matches the -4,000 with a positive 4,000 but actually exceeds it infinity on the other end of the continuum.
When you ache from the pain of this world groaning, remember that these are like the pains of childbirth. Your job is to direct your mind to hoping in the coming baby. Your job is to direct your thoughts to hoping in the glory that is so glorious it does not fit on the continuum!
If you have repented and believed on Christ then he has made you an adopted son and daughter of God. One of the truly wonderful inheritances of your adoption is that glory is coming. Your pain today is only going to make the glory that much more satisfying. God is still with us. God is still good. Our job is to wait and hope.
The hope of glory is what rescues us when we walk through painful circumstances. Jesus was born into a people marginalized and beaten. In fact, their country was ruled by a foreign power that could torture and murder them on a whim. Our world, like Jesus' world 2,000 years ago, needs rescuing. Our hope for rescue is the promise of glory on the other side of our groaning. Maybe a way to think of it all is that glory is coming like a generic middle-aged dad in a bass boat rescuing Houstonians after Hurricane Harvey!