Over the course of the last two weeks, our family has experienced a wedding, an earthquake, and a tropical storm. Involved with the wedding came countless visits to weather.com to see if the rain would hold off long enough for us to hold the ceremony outdoors. (It did!) The tropical storm (a hurricane a few miles away) brought an evacuation from our vacation and, again, more hits to weather.com than I care to count. I keep waiting to hear if a locust plague waits around the corner.
We could debate how accurately the forecasters predicted things. But what stands out as more significant to me is how utterly powerless we all are to control the weather. Try as I wanted, there was nothing, other than prayer, that I could do to push back clouds, redirect trajectories, or change categories of storms. This was especially obvious when the ground shook, the sky poured, and the winds gusted above 80 miles per hour.
I doubt I’m alone in my frustration at our inability to control the weather. But I do think such frustration has probably grown as we’ve progressed from an agricultural society to a technological one. Given all that we can do today – seemingly instantaneously – with the push of a button, the scroll of a finger, or the utterance of a verbal command, why can’t we tell a hurricane to stop messing up our vacations, weddings, or tee times?
I view the world far more than I should through New Yorker magazine cartoons. One of my favorites shows a man sitting on his beach chair at the water’s edge pointing his remote control towards the sky – apparently adjusting the weather as effortlessly as one would switch from The Food Network to ESPN. Ah…wouldn’t that be delightful!...
Seriously though, frustration at our inability to control what only God can control reveals a theological disorientation, not just an emotional struggle. We fail to realize just how dependent we are upon a God who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17) and “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). Truly, “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Our lack of control over the weather and many other things provides particular difficulty for intelligent people. We solve problems by thinking, and, thus, we are susceptible to the faulty logic that to understand something is to control it. Consider how many seemingly limitless hours were spent by meteorologists explaining to us how a hurricane forms, grows, moves, and wipes out everything in its path. No talking head ever said so, but it seemed as if we were to believe that if we just understood all about hurricanes, they wouldn’t be so bad.
Powerlessness or even just weakness of any kind poses particular difficulty for the modern mind. The alternative is not to exalt thoughtlessness. Instead, we should offer thanks to God for the minds he has given us, the advances we’ve been able to make through his gifts of technology and study, and the blessings of living in a world where potential disasters have been tamed just a bit more than they were in the past.
But let us also humbly acknowledge our dependence for every breath, every step, and every moment of safety. To do otherwise is to shake our fist at the wind.