Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weather Wonders

Contemporary weather discussions often revolve around awe-inspiring events. Today’s conversations often join with the current climate buzz where startling weather events (effects) are linked with our modern obsession to explain the “why” of those events (causes). Some alarmists may be turning from wholesome fascination to fear owing to our current societal fixation on potentially disastrous effects of climate change. Perhaps we recall our own childhood experience of fear during a violent thunderstorm or windstorm. We may have experienced flooding close to our homes or shared the anxiety of farmers in our region when a drought struck the area. Rural inhabitants may have experienced greater apprehension because they were closer to nature. On the other hand, the joy of refreshing rains falling on their regions and the pleasure of living in open country made their experience more satisfying.

One irony is that extended cloudless, rain-free weather replete with gentle breezes and mild temperatures may not be of benefit to humans in the long run. We may hold our scheduled athletic contests and bask in outdoor splendor at our picnics, but is this set of weather conditions really most desirable and beneficial? We propose that such ideal weather is the least interesting and beneficial in the long-term. In the early months of 2012, the US midwest experienced a mild, snowless winter. March 2012 felt like May with the forsythia blooming and daffodils emerging early. The warm summer of 2012 brought a severe  drought. An unfamiliar explanation called the Arctic Oscillation (AO) was to blame, we were told. Comparisons to the drought conditions of the 1930s appeared. After a while many residents realized colder and snowier may be better.

The good news follows: In 2013 the rains returned long before dust bowl conditions recurred and this short term but severe drought was largely forgotten. During the drought supermarkets remained stocked with plentiful bounty. Other regions of the nation had fine growing weather. Prices did not spike significantly. The drought did not result in social upheaval. Any sojourn to the supermarket resulted in a blizzard of opportunities to purchase virtually any food product we desired. I have called such visits a “worship” experience. If we contemplate deeply, we may worship the Creator and His ability to provide our Earth’s climate system, in place since man first appeared on this planet.

Embedded in this climate system are multiple current weather events which may trigger alarm in our hearts. In any given calendar year, weather reporters could easily compose a catalog of attention-grabbing stories. Historic events may intensify our wonder and in some cases, our fear. Shallow thinkers may become alarmed unless they make an effort to place Earth’s climate and weather in perspective. When we study God’s climate system, we may acquire appreciation for a variety of life-sustaining weather on this planet. We may understand complex atmospheric and oceanic oscillations. Holy Scripture contains several passages exalting the power and majesty of God manifest in Earth’s weather. We have selected four passages in which many of our planet’s most startling weather events are highlighted. We quote phrases from Job 37, Psalm 29, Jeremiah 10, and Acts 27.

Job 37: “Listen to the roar of his voice…God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways…He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’…The breath of God produces ice…The tempest comes out from its chamber…”

Psalm 29: “The God of glory thunders…The Lord thunders over the mighty waters…The  Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon…The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare…The Lord sits enthroned over the flood…”

Jeremiah 10:12-13: “But God made the earth by his power; he founded the earth by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes the clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends the lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.”

Acts 27: (A fear inspiring adventure of the Apostle Paul on one of his missionary journeys) “Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘Northeaster,’ swept down…When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Many Old Testament passages discuss droughts and resulting famines. Many of these events were long term droughts. Earth wide, droughts are often relieved by intense storms referenced in these passages. In the Bible rains were seen as God’s provision. Droughts were a sign of God’s judgment in selected cases but weather events are mostly part of beautiful natural cycles. In all cases weather events embedded in our climate system indicate God cares for this planet and is ultimately the Master of our physical environment.

These passages describe thunderstorms, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, and the harsh effects of winter. Of course, multiple scriptures also communicate the many blessings of our weather system including God’s provision of crop-sustaining rain. We must avoid envisioning our climate as a cruel master. Our climate system displays God’s glory. For this we are thankful.