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God of the ice

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This week, the entire country is feeling the icy blast of nature at its cruelest. With record temperatures below zero in many places—not including the wind chill—and a deadly fusion of snow and ice, folks have had to stay home from work and school. Those unlucky enough to be traveling have had to suffer delayed flights and extended time at the airport.

Whenever I hear about a dilemma like this—be it a blizzard in winter, a hurricane in summer, or a random tornado or earthquake—there’s a word that always comes to mind: "helpless." Before the calamities of nature, mankind is helpless. Sure, we can take preventive measures like boarding our windows or putting chains on our tires, but at the end of day, weather yields to no one.

This is significant because we fancy ourselves quite the masters of planet earth. We’ve got drugs and surgeries that make possible a plethora of medical miracles. Our increased understanding of biology has saved millions of lives. Organs can be replaced. Prosthetic limbs can be attached. Many sicknesses, which could have turned deadly two centuries ago, can be easily remedied by a quick trip to the local pharmacy.

Then there’s technology. The extent of technological advancements over the last 150 years—heck, even the last 20 years—is frightening. We can heat up a meal in the microwave in two minutes. We can travel across continents in the span of a day. We can contact any person in the world from the palm of our hand. We can light up a city at midnight to be as bright as midday. Suddenly a Jetsons-esque future doesn’t seem so unbelievable.

Yet despite the medical and mechanical features that make life safer and easier, there's one aspect to life that humans are still powerless to control or prevent. Nature. We can build the most grand city in the world full of the tallest buildings, powered by the most advanced machines, illuminated by a million volts. Yet one thunderstorm can make it all go dark. One tidal wave can wipe it flat. We can invent measures to stall or minimize the damage. But we cannot stop it. We're helpless.

And when I think of the word “helpless” I cannot help but think of another word: "humbling." How humbling to know that we’re only specks of dust in the face of existence, subject to whatever storm may rage. This should point us right back to the power and sovereignty of God, the Creator and controller of it all.

Romans 1:20 talks about how the magnitude of nature is evidence of God's glory. Blizzards and floods are terrifying, but they should remind us of the divine power behind them. If we're so humbled before a storm, how much more humbled should we be before the Master of that storm?

These natural disasters are but a testimony to the true might of the Almighty. They should convict us of the dominance of God, and that should cause us to fall on our face in reverence. That should cause us to be humbled before Him and reliant upon Him, remembering that this is not our world and these lives are not our own. Everything in nature belongs to the glory of the Most High and all things are subject to the power of His purpose.

He is the one who controls the earthquakes, lightning bolts and tsunamis. They are powerful only because He is powerful. As the Psalmist put it, “The waters saw You, God, the waters saw You and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the heavens resounded with thunder; Your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, Your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked” (Psalm 77:16-18).

The Gospels tell of Jesus calming a storm. This shocked the disciples, who asked, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!" One account says the disciples were amazed (Matthew 8:27), another says they were terrified (Mark 4:41), and another says they were both (Luke 8:25).

That's a healthy approach to perceiving God's might over creation. Amazement and terror. Wonder and fear. Joy and trembling. As shocked as the disciples were by Christ's ability to calm the storm, I wonder if they realized that He was the one who created it in the first place. Colossians 1:16-17 says, "For in Him all things were created...all things have been created through Him and for Him...and in Him all things hold together." Even that storm was created by Jesus, was held together by Jesus, and was for the glory of Jesus. He didn't just stop it. He had also fashioned and sustained it.

The book of Job offers a profound picture of this, as God answers Job’s self-righteousness with a rebuke: “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm…From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?” (Job 38:22-30)

It’s a reminder that we’re mortal. That we have no control over the raging forces of nature. It’s a reminder that the only hope in the face of calamity is to trust the Creator and Lord of it all. Our technology and advancements will always be helpless before the might of nature, and for that we should always be humble before the might of God.

As we witness His hand at work in the snow and sleet this winter, let us be like the disciples. Filled with terror. And filled with amazement.

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