There were miracles in the Houston flood. There was also a natural event where things happened according to the laws set down by Nature’s God. Both ideas are compatible and both fit what we know about the world. Nobody should be hasty in declaring what God has done while not being overly skeptical that God has acted.
God is a person who acts. God’s actions are often seen through His setting up Nature and allowing the laws He put in place in Nature to function. The regularity of the laws is good as it would be hard to live if God were whimsical or given to messing about as lesser beings like Thor would do if they were God and not merely gods. Hurricanes happen, because they are good for the ecology of the Earth. God willed Harvey, though not all our pain in Harvey.
Just as the direct reason for the temperature in my study is not me, but chemistry, so the direct cause of tropical storm Harvey is not God, but weather patterns. However, there is a personal cause for the temperature of my study: I set the thermostat and I like it chilly. This “setting” could have been done years ago, I might be out of the house, yet there is a personal cause for the temperature.
Is God responsible for Harvey? He is, in the sense that God made a system where it rains. God did not force humankind to build a city in Houston. He did not pick our zoning laws or the choices we made in flood protection. God did not make us m0ve here. God did not force us to drive on flooded highways. There is much God has done in setting up Nature and Nature’s laws, but much God leaves to other personal agents: humans, devils, angels, and whatever else has reason in this big universe.
There is a Divine Plan, but that plan is for every living being in the cosmos, a very big place. Human beings have been given free will and often we use that freedom badly. Coming to adulthood requires facing some consequences for those actions, though like any good parent, God minimizes the gratuitous suffering and maximizes the learning as God can. In addition, we are immortal beings and God rightly cares far more for our eternal, long term happiness, than our short term mortal happiness. He delights to give us both when He can, but when He cannot, then God does the best that can be done.
That makes fully understanding why God is doing as He is practically impossible. The variables are too great. God does know all the variables and He does take them into account. He intervenes where that intervention will be best for most as a loving Father. That isn’t as often as I would like, but evidently more often than atheists wish.
Did my house not flood, because God willed it? Indirectly, through natural law, I am guessing “yes.” However, the good choices of Sugar Land engineers, God bless them, were probably the proximate causes of this good event. Did it happen to me because I am a Christian and God loves me more? It did not. God loves all His children. Did I not face a flooded house through my virtue? This is absurd. The rain falls on the just and the unjust.
I can never assert why God chose what He chose except that God’s choice is rooted in His character: good, just, true.
If my house had flooded, thank God. My house did not flood: thank God. However, this I know: my dad prays about where to move and God leads Him. God led Daniel, Dad, and Mom from one place to another safe from the coming floods. Thank God. Dad asked and got an answer: here not there. Why doubt that the good God acted?
The usual response is to ask “why didn’t God warn so-and-so” or help that person move? I do not know. How could I? Would God tell me the details of their lives? Isn’t this a complex calculus about what would be best long term? This much is true: as simple beings, who know so little about what is really best, we wish to avoid immediate pain and long for immediate pleasure. God honors this as God can.
Sometimes God honors this by allowing the good that is built into nature to happen: good rain waters crops that we eat and enjoy.
Sometimes, however, we ask and God immediately answers in unexpected ways. We see the water rising, we pray, and the water falls backwards. We ask God to heal and the cancer retreats. I have seen such miracles: immediate, spectacular, a sign of the Good God. However, I have also seen God say “no” to healing, but provide the grace to help a man slip into eternity with joy. That is another type of miracle. God is good. The mistake is to think that one argues from this to God’s existence. No. We know God exists for other reasons, some philosophical and some experiential or personal. Having seen the character of this person, we trust His goodness. This is rational.
I do not know what God is saying to my good friends who were flooded. I bet they will tell me . . . over time. Meanwhile, today I will use that precious free will to help where I can and pray where I cannot. The Good God will do as a Good God can.