God, Hurricane Irene, & Anxiety

Hurricane Irene approaches The BahamasI used to watch CNN’s coverage of hurricanes with great curiosity.

As I sit here writing this post, my curiosity remains—but from a much different vantage point. As a resident of The Bahamas, I’m about to experience, first-hand, the impact of a hurricane.

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel. Panic? Terror? Anxiety? Calm?

At the moment, the weather outside is perfect (I can hear the sound of someone cutting their lawn). I plan to run some errands later today, and possibly even tomorrow. But Thursday…I’m told we should stay put—and I plan to!

We’ve procured all of our necessary supplies–ample food, water, gas for our vehicles, and batteries for our lanterns. The hurricane shutters are up and later today our propane tanks will be secured. We’re ready…even if we don’t know for sure what we are up against.

As I’ve interacted with people over the last few days, I’ve noticed two dominant themes have surfaced: God and anxiety.

Many people are praying—praying that the hurricane changes course, praying that the hurricane weakens, praying that the damage will be minimal.

I’ve also noticed an upswing in some people’s anxiety. Part of me gets this. We’re up against something we can’t control. And while experts can accurately predict a general trajectory for the hurricane, they cannot predict what the specific impact/damage will be for each family in the hurricane’s path. It’s conceivable (likely?) that some in Nassau will have no or little damage to property, while others experience substantial devastation. We just don’t know exactly how this is going to play out…and that makes some people very nervous.

I think I’m a little bit nervous. I think I’m a bit nervous, because this is a new experience for me.

I think the reason why I am only a little bit nervous has to do with my faith in God. Now, by that I don’t mean to suggest that nothing bad will happen. I don’t mean to suggest that my faith, or the collective faith of Bahamians guarantees our safety and the preservation of our property.

When I suggest that my faith in God helps to allay anxiety, I mean to say that I firmly believe that God has everything under control. My conviction is that He is sovereign. God has measured this out. His design will, no doubt, include much mercy. And, in suffering or in destruction, He has designs to teach and to correct as our loving Heavenly Father.

The passage I turned to this morning for this reminder was Job chapters 38 through 41. I encourage you to read these chapters. God answers Job’s objections to his current predicament and suffering. It is a rebuke to be sure, but I find comfort in the rebuke:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? (38:4)…Have you ever commanded the morning, or shown the dawn its place? (38:12)…Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm? (38:25)…Do you send lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’? (38:35)”

God is clearly in control.

Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean we will be spared hardship (Job wasn’t spared hardship!). What it does mean, however, is that whatever happens, there is great purpose behind it.

We’ve done all that we can. Every preparation has been made.

The words of Paul encourage me: “Be anxious for nothing [not even hurricanes!], but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7).

Our hope is in a God who is both sovereign and good.

How Do I Know God Exists?

Engaging in a debate over the question, “Does God exist?”, will not likely result in one of the debating persons changing their conclusion. I have a number of friends who profess atheism, and most of them are entrenched in their position—just as I am entrenched in my conviction that God exists.

If I engage an atheist friend in dialogue, I harbour no expectation of “winning them over” to my position. What I would want to communicate is “the math”, which led to my conclusion. It is a common charge of atheists that “faith is not evidence based” and therefore references to faith should not be included in the discussion. This, in my opinion, is an unfair categorization of faith. In a debate between Oxford scholars, John Lennox (Christian) and Richard Dawkins (Atheist), Lennox asked Dawkins if he had any faith that his wife loved him. Dawkins immediately responded in the affirmative, to which Lennox countered, “Do you have any evidence to support your belief that your wife loves you?” Dawkins again responded in the affirmative.

Lennox: “So your faith is evidence based then?”

Dawkins: “Leave my wife out of this!”

I gather that Lennox and Dawkins regularly debate on this issue, and yet there is no indication that either has adjusted their conclusions even slightly.

I regard there to be some value in sharing with others the influences upon our worldview and our theology, but I agree with D.A. Carson who suggests in the video below that we typically approach the topic of God’s existence in an unhelpful and presumptuous way.

Carson certainly doesn’t settle the matter for us, but he does provide (in my opinion) a  much more helpful trajectory to deal with the subject of how we discover God’s existence.

What do you think?