Today marks the day when one of the worst hurricanes in recorded history will make landfall along the Carolina coast. By the time you read this, most likely it has. Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm, is raging at wind speeds between 130-156 mph and is expected to deliver catastrophic, life-threatening damage, including drenching some areas with up to 40 inches of rain. Over 1 million people have evacuated to escape the expected devastation and destruction left in the wake of the storm.
We lift up our prayers on behalf of all those affected by this storm, and we’re reminded, once again, of the reality of living in a world blended with beauty and pain. Without a doubt, we enjoy the beauty, but we struggle to endure the pain. I know I do.
In the book of Job, we read about one man’s enjoyment of the beauty of life only to be shattered by the onslaught of pain. Job was considered “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3). He was blessed with good health and wealth beyond measure—seven sons, three daughters, 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys, and a large number of servants.
And yet his blessings were ripped from his life by the hands of marauding warriors, fire, and, catch this, hurricane-force winds. In a matter of days, Job’s blessings turned into Job’s pain.
Where do you turn when enemies, fire, and wind destroy all that you hold dear? Mrs. Job gave the advice I would have felt in my heart: “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Who hasn’t gone through a season of suffering and not gotten angry with God or felt forsaken by Him (Psalm 22:1)? And yet the very next verse reveals that “In all this Job did not sin in what he said.”
“In . . . all . . . this.”
Brian Jones writes, “The reality is we all have our own `in all this’ seasons of life when it appears to everyone around us that we’ve been cursed. By God, by life, by karma, by Satan, by the universe—it doesn’t matter who exactly—all that matters is that we seem to suffer for no apparent reason” (Finding Favor, 94).
I imagine many people along the Carolina coast may be feeling that right now.
Through the book of Job, we discover that God’s blessing is not limited to the physical. God’s favor is not a quick-fix formula of good health and greater wealth. In the fourteenth century, Thomas a Kempis wrote, “The Lord bestows his blessings there, where he finds the vessels empty” (The Imitation of Christ, 296).
Sometimes it’s only in the emptiness that we discover God’s filling. It’s only in the pain that we encounter a deeper awareness of His presence. Our greatest blessing is God’s presence, not our pleasure, for His presence is eternal; our pleasure (or pain) is temporal.
When the hurricanes come, God’s blessing remains, for He is present in the storm . . . right there with us.
“His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet” (Nahum 1:3).