Already one reads foolish people finding meaning in the storm. God is punishing New York. God is helping Obama. Secularists argue that the meaning of the storm is that there is no meaning.
All these responses are simple minded, because God’s will cannot be known so simply in any particular action. Why?
I only need to think of my motivation for anything I do to see how complicated any action I do is. This morning’s breakfast served at least three purposes: nutrition, a chance to talk with Hope, and a quiet moment to start a busy day. My life isn’t just being a husband (much as I sometimes regret it!), or a father, or a provost . . . all these roles must be balanced.
A man cannot be perfect at any one role if in his attempt he becomes bad at all the other necessary callings he has.
God is King of the Universe. He cares for the sparrow and loves His creation. He has a special love for humans created in His image, but we are not the whole story of the cosmos! When people, like Job’s comforters, claim they know what God is doing in the storm, they focus only what is before them, but that is only a tiny part of even the human story at any moment. If we add the health of the ecosystem, of the plants and animals that are also created good, then the complexity of knowing what God is doing in the storm is compounded.
It might be possible for humans to hear an entire explanation for every result of the storm and the multitude of causes, some based on human evil and some simply part of the workings of creation, but it would be a long story that would accomplish nothing. There is also the possibility that to fully know the cause and reason for one thing entails, eventually, knowing everything and so would be impossible for any man.
This is less important than it seems, however, because knowing what God is doing is harder, it turns out, than knowing God. This too fits our experience . . . if I ask the motives for any given action Hope takes, then I am left in doubt. If I ask, “Does Hope love me?” I need only look at her eyes. I see Hope and I know her.
Job found the same truth in his heartaches. The causes were vast, they would have required knowledge of all of creation and he knew not even as much as we, but when he saw God, Job was relieved. Why? One can know God is good by His character, but seeing him, without understanding all He does.
Just as I can know many things without being able to fully define them, so I can know that there is meaning to all things without knowing fully what that meaning is. If something evil happens, then I know it is evil, but God will work with history, time, and the cosmos to bring good of it.
I cannot see hope in looking for particular “reasons” for the storm, but I can use it as a chance to get outside myself and seek God. My knowledge is too small, my virtue too slight, to do anything when I do see Him but glory in the God who is beyond all storms and all chaos.
And how do I see God? Not by looking at myself, I am too vain for that to be safe. Not mostly by looking at others or even his creation, though God is visible there. It is unsafe for me, given as I am to idolatry. Instead, I look to Jesus through the Scriptures and His reality in the spiritual realm and so gain all that is necessary.
Jesus shows me the character of God and that meaning exists is obvious. I can dimly see some of it, but in the doubt that is a necessary this side of paradise can have faith that the doubtful will someday be made plain . . . if I still need it to be.