I can readily image what it must have been like on that Friday – dark foreboding clouds, periodic rain mists, lighting randomly striking, and wind, wind so strong and haunting that it felt like the voice of something immensely powerful and terrifying which was about the gobble up anything in its path.  It must have felt like the kind of something from which there is absolutely no escape and to which resistance is truly futile. But there on the hill stood three narrow poles with figures on them.  The one in the middle seems to have been exuding some special force pulling one’s attention to it like a magnet.  Why? What’s so special about this one, it’s just a man that the Romans have nailed to a cross, some thief perhaps, or worse some murderous rascal finally caught and given his just desserts?

As we South Carolinians prepare once again to face the wrath of another hurricane, this time one aptly named Matthew, we are once again reminded of the terrible power and force of nature.  It is a power capable of massive destruction and a power against which we find ourselves totally helpless.  It is now that we are reminded of the power of an omnipotent God who does in fact have control of the world he created and does at times very much exercise that control.  And, for me, it is times like this when I see images: images like the destroyer silently snaking through the Egyptian streets killing as it goes, of the “Glory of the Lord” in which God appeared to the ancient Hebrews lest they be consumed by fire at the sight of his face,  and of Aaron’s sons who through negligence or misstep failed to properly honor God with their incense and were consumed by fire in an instant.

However, tonight reading an article in the Living Church[1] about a dying wife and the redemptive power of Christ I see other images:  I see the image of an empty tomb, of appearances on the road, and of a doubter who with his hand felt the presence of the living God as he touched his resurrected Son.  As I read this article about Susan these words were particularly striking:

Regardless of lifespan, every human being experiences suffering at one point or another. But there is one important character in that universal story, one that is always there with us, and that character is God. Suffering, at times, causes us to forget or even doubt his presence. It even causes some, unfortunately, to deny his very existence. But the great truth is that God is there with us in the midst of suffering, for he is relational, not aloof or detached, but active in the world and amid the creatures he has made.

The Deists would argue that God is indeed aloof and detached, but I think not.  The evidence overwhelmingly mitigates [2] against such a conclusion.

As we prepare for the worst let us also prepare in our hearts and minds for the best.  From out of the darkness let the light shine and give thanks that through the raw, powerful, forces of nature we experience the omniscient power of our God.  Yes, it is the power to destroy but also the power to create.  With such a friend such as this who, or what, shall we fear?

[1] Montgomery,Christ’s Presence in Suffering A review of Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest’s Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away by Victor Austin (Brazos, 2016), The Living Church, October 6, 2016

[2] Some would hold that militates should be used here.  But I prefer the Faulknerian mitigates having been raised in the Mississippi County upon which Faulkner’s mythical Yoknapatawpha County was based. Such use is referred to by some as an “American idiom”.

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