Hurricane Ian Challenges Our Hope
in the Supremacy of Christ
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew became the most destructive hurricane to ever hit Florida in terms of structures damaged or destroyed. It remained the costliest in financial terms until Hurricane Irma surpassed it 25 years later.
Now Ian may end up holding the all-time record.
Immediately after Hurricane Andrew passed through, a reporter visited Homestead, Florida, the city most devasted by that terrible storm. He observed a man sitting on the roof of his flooded home, holding up a very large, homemade sign that read:
“OK, God! You got our attention! Now what?”
I imagine there are a lot of people caught in Ian’s destructive fury who are asking the same thing.
The answer to “Now what?” is this: Moments like these challenge Jesus followers everywhere (not just in Florida) to seriously confront for themselves what they truly believe about the supremacy of Christ in the face of natural disasters. And rightly so.
The breaking news—the good news!—is this: As they say, “The light shines brightest in the darkest night.” Even so, though we may be overwhelmed by this tragic hour for our nation, the glories of the reign of our Redeemer over all the workings of creation—including hurricanes—should cause us to “abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Let me show you why and how.
First, an honest assessment of Ian’s devastation
As Hurricane Ian moved across the Florida peninsula, the storm dumped up to two feet of rain on some cities, caused severe flooding, destroyed thousands of trees and countless homes, and knocked out power for millions of people across the state, which may not be restored for weeks. Some places recorded storm surges up to 12 feet! The number of human lives lost to this Category 4 disaster remains unknown but is expected to keep rising.
The storm is projected to continue to bring strong winds, heavy rains, and storm surges in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas over the next few days. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, said Ian could go down as one of the worst hurricanes in the state’s history.
As the New York Times observed on Thursday:
So, where is JESUS in the midst of Ian’s fury?
After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast states in August 2005, I traveled through the region proclaiming the hope we have in the supremacy of Christ despite the carnage we could see with our eyes. And what we could see was terrible desolation from the ravages of Katrina. It’s the same experience millions of Floridians will undergo in the coming months.
With audience after audience, I started by taking my shaken brothers and sisters to Psalm 29 and unpacking its eleven verses—all totally relevant to what they had just experienced (you should read it sometime today). But I zeroed in on these words (from The Message paraphrase, emphasis added):
God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing
A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.
We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!”
Above the floodwaters is God’s throne
from which his power flows,
from which he rules the world.
God makes his people strong.
God gives his people peace.
Then, I proceeded to share the larger picture of what was really going on—a picture that is equally applicable to the challenges of Ian. These thoughts define the “backstory” behind the storm—the unshakeable truth about how nothing in creation is outside the sphere of his Kingdom, his power, his purposes, and the triumphs of his grace.
Even when the world seems to be falling apart around us, the Christian’s hope looks beyond the immediate circumstances, as Paul said of himself (2 Corinthians 4, The Message, emphasis added):
What we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
So, we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.
There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
Here’s our hope in Christ I would share
with any hurricane survivors.
The larger vision of Christ I gave the survivors of Katrina, which caused many to stand and sing his praises afterward, is what I would share across Florida—and with any of us who are being challenged by the forces of nature. Here’s just a sample:
- From all eternity, God’s plans for his creation included his intention for the Son to rule over all of it. The blueprint was already in his mind before anything existed, and then the Son—the Word with God who was God (John 1)—became the master workman to bring it forth in every detail.
All creation took place through him, and none took place without him. In him appeared life, and this life was the light of mankind . . . He came into the world—the world he had created—and the world failed to recognize him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. Yet wherever men did accept him, he gave them the power to become sons of God (John 1, PHILLIPS).
- Christ is no tribal deity—all of creation owes its origins, its worship, its allegiance, and its destiny to him. Everything was created not only by Christ but also for him. Nothing in the universe exists for its own sake, independent of him.
- Creation is his to shape, to direct, to employ, to redeem, and ultimately to fill. Creation finds its true explanation and fulfillment in who Christ is over us. It does not exist alongside him but underneath him, looking up to him—always!—no matter how unhinged things may appear to be at any given moment.
- Moment by moment, creation is utterly dependent on the reigning Christ for its continued existence and survival. On his throne, Christ undergirds and sustains creation so fully that if he were to suddenly withhold his direct, constant involvement with it, everything would come apart, dissipating into nothingness.
- In a fallen world, we must seek refuge in the Lord of creation. Unpredictable, seemingly unmerciful natural disasters testify to a deeper, more ominous reality: We live on a cursed planet. Thanks to our stubborn sin and Satan’s relentless opposition, there is no safe place on this terrestrial ball. Nature’s physical calamities mirror man-made calamities resulting from our rebellion against our Creator. This is displayed by the rampant pollution of creation, our greedy exploitation of creation, and the destructive impact of violence and warfare on creation. Only in Christ, who rules over the workings of creation (and over every attempt to diminish his creation), can we find safety for both soul and body, not only now but also in the new heaven and earth to come.
- Because Christ is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1), his lordship over the workings of creation exists for this one singular, mighty purpose—the purpose for which the cosmos was designed—to give God the maximum glory he deserves. Therefore, the travailing of creation—because of its bondage to despair, decay, and misery—is of great consequence to Jesus. Our Redeemer intends for everything to be renovated one day soon, as the universe is reconstituted with resurrection power. This will include our own aging bodies because our King does not intend to save us out of our bodies but to save us in our bodies—bodies that will be like his glorious body (Romans 8, Philippians 3).
- At the same time, we can say in the midst of this great purpose that Christ is working everything together for one singular, overarching good. It is for the good of the universe to enter, in its entirety, into “the glorious liberty” of all the saints whom Jesus already has set free (Romans 8).
- Ultimately, the reign of Christ will prove to be more immense than the farthest stretches of a billion galaxies. Creation is the theater of his kingdom ways, in which the outworking of our redemption takes place inseparably from the wider drama of God’s redemption and renovation of all things created, visible and the invisible, on earth and in heaven.
- One day, who Christ is over the workings of creation will be revealed with irrefutable, everlasting evidence—just as we read at the close of the Bible:
Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth . . . I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending from God out of Heaven . . . Then he who is seated upon the throne said, “See, I am making all things new”. . . I could see no Temple in the city, for the Lord, the Almighty God, and the Lamb are themselves its Temple . . . its radiance is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light (Revelation 21, PHILLIPS).
So, even as Ian continues to wreak destruction,
remember the great hope we have in Christ.
With just a few words, Bishop N. T. Wright paints for us the magnificence of Christ’s reign over the workings of creation:
Both then and now, creation serves its Ruler by providing a showcase of his supremacy. Creation, then and now, acts as “window dressing” to embellish displays of his kingdom ways.
As Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Heir, the Lord Jesus Christ requires all nature to reveal the magnitude of his glory, to amplify the judgments of his enemies, and to rain down (reign down!) everlasting blessings upon all he has redeemed by his blood.
Read more of my thoughts about this subject in my latest book, Christ Is NOW!, which is available to you as a free ebook download at ChristNow.com HERE.
About the Author
Over the past 45 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ Awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular CHRIST TODAY podcast.