Psalm 97:4 (KJV)
"[God's] lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled."
Kenneth L. Samuel
In Zora Neale Hurston's moving novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, the two main characters are trapped in a Florida monsoon. As blistering lightning flashes and ravaging waters rage all around them, they find themselves completely spent, completely exhausted and completely helpless. They can no longer see rhyme or reason. In the vortex of the terrible storm, their eyes were watching only God.
Natural disasters have proven to be contexts of divine disclosure. They have summoned the creation of caring communities like nothing else can. In the wake of every Super Storm Sandy and every Hurricane Katrina, there are inter-state, interracial, interfaith and even international communities that have emerged to care for and comfort those who've been impacted. Look at God.
Natural disasters, or "acts of God" as they are sometimes called, also beckon us to reflect upon just how very fragile, fleeting and precious life is. It's hard to take life for granted when your flight is cancelled due to weather; or your city is shut down because of a storm; or you find yourself stranded far from loved ones because natural elements have rendered the roads and bridges impassable. Even in the frustrations and disappointments of the weather's imposed immobility upon us, we can see God teaching us to cherish every loved one and to be thankful for even the simple things of life.
When I was a child growing up in South Carolina, the adults would make me and my siblings stop playing, turn off the lights, move away from the windows and sit quietly whenever a storm erupted. If my siblings and I asked too many questions about why we had to sit quietly in the dark during the storm, my Mother (or some other adult in charge), would say something to the effect of: "Hush chile, God is working!"
It's taken me a while to begin to understand how God could be working when so many are trembling in fear because of natural disasters and environmental hazards. But I have learned that when weather and the environment erupt and take things completely out of my control, my eyes should be watching God.
Dear God, on sunny days and in stormy weather, help us to keep our eyes stayed on you. Show us in darkness what we refuse to see in the light. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.