There are two kinds of storms in life. There are literal ones---like Hurricane Florence that just blew through the Carolinas. As of this writing, 31 people were left dead. Thousands are homeless. And billions of dollars of property damage followed Florence’s destruction.
And, there are personal storms that relentlessly attack our hearts. Both are devastating and destructive.
Why are there storms in life?
Both kinds of storms are born of the fall rooted in Genesis 3. When humanity’s rebellion against God occurred, every part of God’s once-perfect creation was tarnished. Every piece of God’s design was filled with problems. Nothing operated fully as God had originally intended.
Why literal storms? Why are there hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis, and windstorms? They began when humanity rebelled against God. They were never a part of God’s original intent in creation. They are a product of the fall.
Observing the painful consequences of these kinds of disasters, Paul wrote how creation groans for the day of Jesus’s return when all order is restored to God’s original intent (Romans 8:22).
But until that glorious day, humans must live in a world shattered with sin---with broken bodies, emotions, relationships, and nature. We long for the day of Jesus’s return when all brokenness is restored to perfection.
Which brings us to the second kind of storms: personal ones. They too are rooted in the fall. Our hearts face problems, pain, and purposelessness. No human escapes the trials of life.
Why does God allow these kinds of personal storms? What is their purpose? How is he using them for good?
In a way, they are tests. Teachers give students tests to see if students know the information. The teacher is most often silent when giving the tests---as God sometimes seems to be on mute when we are suffering. Might God be doing the same with us when storms come our way? In his silence, is he using the storm as a test? If so, more specifically, how does God use storms to test us?
They test faith. They show us if we really believe and trust him when things are not going our way. They expose pride and self-sufficiency. They show how much we are clinging to the transient baubles, the temporary and eternally unimportant things of this world. They prove whether there is a flimsy or strong faith. After all, when Jesus returns, he wants to find faith on earth (Luke 18:8). Tests prove if we trust God no matter what the circumstances may be.
They test hope. Hope is only a word until it’s challenged with real life. If we are experiencing a present captivity, do we still believe that God has designed for us a future filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11)? That verse in Jeremiah was a promise from God amid the Israelite’s Babylonian captivity. He had clearly prophesied through Jeremiah they’d be there for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10). That prolonged time period was etched in God’s sovereign plan. Would the Jews still have hope in God’s promises amid the long years of waiting? The captivity would test their hope.
They test love. They prove whether our hearts are filled with pride or compassion. The Jews had the love of God and neighbor as two necessities in their law (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus said these two commands summarize all the law and the prophets (Mark 12:20-21). Therefore, when storms ransack us, we are given the privilege of jumping outside ourselves to love others who are hurting or start complaining angrily against God about present circumstances.
Personal storms give us the opportunity to practice faith, hope, and love. They are the only three things that we will carry with us into eternity (1 Corinthians 13:13). If they have eternal significance, wouldn’t God want us to learn how to practice them well now? How else can we see what’s in our hearts unless God permits storms to come to our hearts? How else can we know if our life is built upon shifting sand or solid rock unless storms are allowed to collide against our hearts?
Why storms? They uniquely and powerfully offer evidence that the world is terribly fallen. They keep our heads lifted up, longing for the day of Jesus’s return when he will make all things new (Revelations 21:4). They remind us that this world, in its broken state, is not our permanent home. Again, reminding us that Jesus will one day make all things new (Revelation 21:4).
But storms also allow Jesus’s followers to continue to express God’s heart of faith, hope, and love to others. Christians are never more like Jesus when we do so. When storms happen, our hearts are continually conformed to his image (Romans 8:29). Our lives gradually and increasingly mirror his.
That is Jesus’s will for all his followers. That is his desire for all his disciples.
It is why God allows storms.
And it is how the Lord uses personal storms for good.