PTSD-like, I jolt upright, eyes saucer-wide in midnight’s strobing light. At a single crack, I’m on high alert, as the thunder rolls and the lightening strikes.
As the rain pours down, again.
Because it used to be that I’d snuggle cozy undercover in a thunderstorm, as the rain poured down. But that all changed last week. And I wonder, still I wonder who’ll stop the rain?
But I know the answer to that, and you know, too. We know who stops-and sends and makes lightenings for- the rain.
Yet I’m wide awake and wet with sweat and flashback to the flood that came last Wednesday morning. And I wonder, still I wonder, How long O Lord? Will it all begin again? And as I wonder, these words, His Words, for one reason or another roll one to the next to mind. Some are hard words, but all of them give comfort and courage and hope.
In wrath remember mercy, He does.
The cattle were saved. Huddled on high ground with flood water muzzle-high on the twin calves. Someone drove by at four and sent word to the farmers up the hill. Then, just before dawn came their deliverance.
Yes, God’s Never again rainbow promise stands forever. But the Son of God said, They were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away. And as the thunder rolls and the lightening strikes, I think how I don’t want to be caught of guard. He will come again.
The storm you’re in isn’t always because of you, Pastor had said the Sunday before the flood. The sailors on Jonah’s ship weren’t to blame for those waves. Which isn’t to say that in infinite love, God doesn’t use floods and storms to shake us and shape us.
Carp crossed the road Wednesday morning and cars could not get out to take workers to work. Saints and sinners unsifted. Some were untouched. Some woke to water a foot deep on the ground floor of a home they might never wake up in again.
This wasn’t in any of our plans for Wednesday. I wasn’t planning to spend the rest of the week waging war with wetness, rolling carpets, pulling mats. Jim thought he’d be at work until that carp crossed the road. Yes, only if the Lord wills,
And over the aftermath. Over the carpets and couches and boxes and bins and pads piled high around houses and in heaps beside the streets. And over the mold and the mildew and the bleach and the fans and gutted out basements in Burlington. Enthroned.
But what happens when we hear God’s voice thunder, and cannot understand? Job heard and worshiped. I stood in awe of the power that erodes roadsides and overflows dams in mere hours hours. We still call these acts of God, don’t we?
It would be very wrong to pronounce the flood was divine judgment on the special sins of Burlington. But would it be just as wrong not to see God’s hand in the flood at all?
God’s voice thundered; the flood was beyond our understanding. But just because it’s beyond our understanding doesn’t mean there’s nothing to glean. Should we write off the flood of ’17 as a meaningless, chance event? And just bleach our basements, lay new carpets and move right along
We’d best not, I think. Because God’s still in charge. He still plants his footprints in the sea and rides upon the storm. He still speaks. Not just to the waterlogged us, but all of us who saw the National Guard and the Red Cross and ServPro trucks roll in and took pictures of rivers in roads and of lakes where once were yards.
I think God is saying something to all of us.
John Calvin explained that if natural things always flowed in an even and uniform course– not like the 8 inches in 2 hours that Burlington got early last Wednesday morning- that,
the power of God would not be so perceptible. But when he changes the face of the sky by sudden rain, or by loud thunder, or by dreadful tempests, those who before were, as it were asleep and insensible, must necessarily be awakened, and be tremblingly conscious of the existence of a presiding God. Such sudden and unforeseen changes manifest more clearly the presence of the great Author of nature.
Beyond that, and seeing in the flood a warning borne of love, we’d probably be unwise to assign specific why’s.
Burlington was no more evil than neighboring Elkhorn. Just like the sun that dries up all the rain, the rain fell on the just and the unjust. Even the Good Lord refused to place blame when he was questioned about the why behind little apocalyptic falling of the tower of Siloam.
Jesus didn’t say why. But he did say glean. Russell Moore writes, “Jesus doesn’t avoid talking about the ultimate Apocalypse either. He rejects a personal sin-disaster correlation but then says: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”(Luke 13:4-5).
Yes. Rolling Thunder, we heard your cry. And now alert, in turn we cry Mercy. For you are the God of mercy.
As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man…Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:37-39, 44
In love, we are warned. Because Gpd is patient, not wishing any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). And I pray none of us- with wet basements or dry- will miss in this flood a loving alert. No, this shouldn’t come as a total surprise.
The WHY Is No Surprise
The Bible helps us face life when calamities like floods come. Job faced incomparably worse than we did in the Flood of 2017. Enemies with swords and thunder from heaven and great winds killed his cattle and servants and all of his kids. His wife said, Curse God and die. He didn’t.
Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away, blessed by the name of the LORD (Job 1:20-21).
Dr. Martyn Lloyd- Jones preached a sermon on those verses in response to epic English flooding in 1953. He preached then, and it’s still as true, that we waste too much time trying to figure out why.
We already know why, he said:
Sin. Disasters and calamities, earthquakes and floods…are the direct outcome of sin and the Fall. The Bible does not promise us anywhere that these things will not happen. The Gospel is no soothing syrup. There will be wars and rumors of wars and calamities. While there is sin left in this world these things will happen. We should not be surprised. Only those who do not know the Bible will be surprised by these things…
From the biblical standpoint, the remarkable thing is that worse things don’t happen. The remarkable thing is that God causes his sun to rise on the just and the unjust, that he allows such gifts to people who curse him to his face.
The HOW Matters More
What matters more than why is how we face these things, Lloyd-Jones said.
My HOW was a bad how: I was all of harshness and impatience and a smattering of faithless catastrophizing in the days following, as the wetness crept into more carpets and the boys likened the downstairs smell to- well, let’s just say a dank, dark smell that would make you flee far away.
So I’ll leave you with a picture of some friends who’ve been through the flood and responded to God’s thunderous voice with far more grace than me:
Bill and Genie woke up Wednesday with a 39 inch pool in their basement. Before they could pump an ounce out- the generator was in their also waterlogged garage- the power went out for two days and besides that there was no place anywhere near their house for the water to go. They left their home.
Genie told me Sunday after church that the water was still 39 inches deep. She told me how she had watched her family’s mainstays and memories – Q-tips to Christmas decorations- afloat down below.
But it’s okay, Genie said. It’s all God’s anyway.
Bill and Genie are waiting for adjustor to come this week. But they’re not hanging their hope on that. I know because I heard Bill loud and strong on Sunday.
Pastor’s sermon was on Jonah again. He’d just said something about how we all need to get to that place- and most of us get their without time to reflect in the belly of a fish- that place where where we can say,
My hope is in God alone and I know there is no other Savior.
That was when Bill’s voice thundered behind me,
Amen! I heard it boom.
We heard God’s voice thunder last week. Bill and Genie, like Job, worshiped in the flood.
For I know that the Lord is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.