At 12:59 am on December 26th, 2004, just one day after Christmas, the world experienced the largest earthquake in 40 years. The main difference between this earthquake and so many others was this one took place underwater in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island. The quake registered 9.0 on the Richter scale. It was such a massive quake that it was immediately felt in the Thai capital of Bangkok, which is over 1,242 miles away from the quake’s epicenter. Scientists tell us that the quake even rattled the earth in its orbit. The tectonic plates that collided under the ocean caused a powerful eruption of energy which resulted in a Tsunami wave. In deep water, a Tsunami wave appears like nothing more than another billowing wave, no more than 3 feet high, on the surface of the water. The difference is that it can travel from between 500-800 miles per hour (around the speed of a jet engine) and the wave length can be as much as 60-300 miles a part. As the wave approaches the shoreline and shallow water, it begins to grow in height and can be as high as 90 feet. According to one estimate, a total of 227,898 people died. The economic, environmental, and psychological impact is still being felt today.
On May 19th, 2013, a storm with a series of tornado outbreaks hit the Midwest and Plains of the U.S., leaving a trail of death and destruction in its path. Though the magnitude of the storm was far less in scope than the Asian tsunami, for those directly affected by the winds that reportedly went up as high at 200 miles per hour, the sense of pain, loss, and helplessness were the same.
The power of weather was important to ancient Israel and to its neighbors as well; so powerful that many divinized that power by worshiping Baal, the god of weather and rain. It was not unusual for great storms to roll off the Mediterranean Sea and hit the coast. From there it would shake the wilderness of Kadesh. Psalm 29 uses the vivid imagery of such storms to assert that true power comes from worship of the true God, and not from the god of weather (Baal). In the end, it is the voice of the Lord that thunders over mighty waters; the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl and strips the forest bare; the voice of the Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. In other words, what appears to be the most powerful in our daily lives (Baal) may not necessary be the case. There is a greater power. There is One who sits above.
I am not sure there are any easy answers to why natural disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes, or tornadoes happen. Do I believe God caused the disaster? No. Do I fully comprehend why God did not prevent it? No. Yet I believe there is One who sits above, and who knows our pain, our sorrow, and our deepest needs even before we ask. I also believe that on the day high winds hit the Midwest, Christians were gathered around the world celebrating a different kind of rushing, mighty wind that continues to sweep down upon Christ’s Church and empower Jesus’ disciples to reach out in love, concern, and service. That Pentecostal Wind is even now blowing fellow believers and Spirit-filled disaster relief workers towards victims of the recent storm. Let that same wind blow you, whether in body, spirit, or prayer, as we witness to the power of a different kind of wind that brings healing, love, and hope.