Hurricane Ian Devastates Florida: Where Was God?

By Richard Young | Posted October 03, 2022

Florida is known as the “Sunshine State” for good reason. It’s often sunny and warm in the winter, especially along its coasts, when millions of citizens up north are digging out of snow and slipping on ice. It’s easy to envy life in the Sunshine State.

But not last week. 

Hurricane Ian, after slamming Western Cuba and ascending through the Gulf of Mexico, has devastated parts of Southwest and Central Florida. One of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the United States, Ian, a Category 4, generated winds of up to 155 miles per hour. The storm swept across the peninsula, reached the Atlantic, and then struck South Carolina, where dangerous winds and flooding occurred as well.

Destruction and Death

Flooding destroyed huge swaths of the state, leaving, at one point, two and a half million without electricity. Some outages could last for weeks in some places. Several hospitals had no water, and thousands were trapped in homes, waiting for rescue. The causeway connecting Sanibel Island to the mainland collapsed in the storm, leaving those residents stranded.

Between regular news outlets and social media, the world has witnessed the massive devastation, with pictures of boats and private airplanes turned upside down and of cars submerged in water. People watched, in real-time, streets that looked like flowing rivers and neighborhoods that looked like lakes, with only the tops of houses peeking out from them. 

We also saw explosions and fires from downed power lines. Over the weekend, videos and photos showed people in their homes and businesses beginning the long process of cleaning up the wreckage and rebuilding their lives. The damage will be in the tens of billions of dollars, but the psychological toll cannot begin to be tallied. It is going to take years for some places to recover.

And the deaths? As of this Monday, including four in the Carolinas, those had reached 90.

Natural Evil

However devastating Hurricane Ian was, it’s not the first example, nor the last, of the havoc that nature can cause. Catastrophic floods in Pakistan recently killed 1,500 and left tens of thousands homeless. And don’t forget the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed 29,000 in Japan—or the estimated six million deaths worldwide attributed to COVID. We can go back further in time to the 50 million who died from the Spanish Flu in 1918—or the famine in Iran that killed about two million people around the same time.

Such horrific accounts go on and on and on …

And yet, we should not be surprised. Almost two thousand years ago, Jesus warned about catastrophes in the last days: “There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21: 25–27). If this doesn’t sound like our day and age, especially in Florida, with the “sea and waves roaring,” what does?

Yet all this leads to a reasonable and fair question: How can things like this happen if God is an all-powerful God of love? It’s one thing to explain what has been called “human evil,” when people purposely do bad things. That can be attributed to free will, the freedom that God gave all humans, which they have used to do evil starting in Eden. (See Genesis 3:1–15.)

But what about “natural evil,” when nature itself turns upon Earth’s inhabitants and causes great suffering? How do we explain that?

The Great Controversy

The Bible teaches that we are immersed in a cosmic struggle that has been called by some “the great controversy.” The Bible is clear about this reality in a number of places. Here’s just one of them: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12: 12).

Woe? The devil? Great wrath? One look at our world—from wars, to crime, to hurricanes and droughts—and that warning makes sense, doesn’t it? While this perhaps doesn’t mean that we can attribute every natural disaster directly to the devil, it does mean that our world is immersed in a cosmic struggle in which even nature itself is impacted. The apostle Paul wrote about how “the whole creation groans and labors” under this comic battle (Romans 8:22).

In his book In the Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?, David Bentley Hart, a Greek Orthodox theologian who was writing in response to the tsunami that devasted parts of Asia in 2004, said, “In the New Testament, our condition as fallen creatures is explicitly portrayed as a subjugation to the subsidiary and often mutinous authority of angelic and demonic ‘powers.’” While these powers, Hart continued, will not stop God’s ultimate triumph, for now, they “certainly are able to act against him.”

In other words, we are amid a great controversy between good and evil, between Christ and Satan. (See, for example, Matthew 4:1–11.) Who hasn’t sensed the reality of this struggle in their own hearts? Who hasn’t, at times, felt compelled, even pushed, to do wrong? The Bible helps explain why this happens in some cases: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

And yet, while the Bible clearly depicts the origins of this great controversy, it also reveals the ultimate solution: Jesus on the cross. His death guarantees not only the end of this struggle one day soon, but also that evil like this will never happen again. Storms like Hurricane Ian are the result of a fallen world, where nature itself, so often testifying to the love and goodness of its Creator, is negatively impacted—leaving havoc in its wake.

But we have been promised, because of Jesus, that one day God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). To learn more about the great controversy, how it started, and how it will ultimately end, watch “The Great Controversy: The Foundation.” 

Richard Young
Richard Young is a writer for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.

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