Why Hurricane Ian caught so many in Florida off guard

Why Hurricane Ian caught so many in Florida off guard October 4, 2022

Trust seems to be a scarce commodity these days.

For example, the would-be winners of almost $29,000 at an Ohio fishing tournament were disqualified recently after it was discovered that their fish were stuffed with lead weights and fish fillets.

On a much more somber note: as of this morning, the death toll from Hurricane Ian has risen to at least 103. Part of the problem is that the storm was predicted until the last thirty-six hours to strike Florida further north than where it landed. As a result, many in the Ft. Myers region were unprepared for the violence of the hurricane when it hit their area.

The main American forecast model insisted for days that the storm would strike the Florida Panhandle or Big Bend areas as a Category 2 storm. The European model, which uses faster supercomputers, consistently signaled a more southernly and stronger storm track for Florida. (Its prediction ended up being far closer to the actual outcome.) The National Hurricane Center then split the difference, leading to a predicted landfall north of where the storm came ashore.

In other news, an Indonesian police chief and nine elite officers were removed from their posts after at least 125 people (including thirty-two children) were killed in a soccer stadium crush. And the polls were wrong once again, this time in Brazil, where the incumbent president received more votes than had been predicted and is now in a runoff with his leading challenger.

Each day’s news provides more proof that we are fallen people living in a fallen world. Why, then, is it hard to convince secular people that they need more than secular society can provide?

Moving the Overton window

If lost people understood that they needed Christ, they would turn to him. The fact that they do not shows that they do not believe they need any more “spirituality” than they already have. Thus, as we noted yesterday, they must want what we know they need.

We might think that disasters like Hurricane Ian would turn many toward God since such tragedies clearly show us our finitude and frailty. They force us to confront the mortality we are otherwise so good at ignoring. And they prove that we need to be ready today for what might come tomorrow.

However, for many, natural disasters are invitations to question the love, power, or even the existence of God. And they align with a cultural narrative that reinforces self-reliance. As the Stoic Epictetus said, “No man is free who is not master of himself.” His words could be the mantra of our day.

Consequently, the spiritual Overton window (the range of what is socially acceptable) has moved the cultural center to the left. The younger you are, the further to the left you have moved.

If I do not believe I have cancer

Now, for the first time in American history, a majority of Americans reject biblical truth on a wide range of moral issues. For many, “morality” is defined as “doing whatever you want to do that doesn’t harm someone else.” This is a logic trap: for me to disagree causes you harm and thus crosses this line.

Why is this definition of morality so appealing?

Consider an example: the LGBTQ population is at most 5.6 percent of American society. But if we decide that the Scriptures and/or Christian tradition are wrong on LGBTQ issues that do not affect 95 percent of us personally, we can then decide that they are wrong on other issues that do.

Once we determine that Christianity is wrong about homosexuality, we can decide that it is wrong about abortion. Or premarital sex, or cohabitation, or pornography, or euthanasia, or a host of other decisions.

This relativistic view of morality rejects the only solution for our problem: “You know that [Christ] appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). If I do not believe I have cancer, I will not consult an oncologist, much less consent to the chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery she prescribes.

How can we respond biblically to such deception? How can we speak the truth in love when such truth is so unpopular?

One: Pray with passion

Because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). This is a spiritual conflict that must be fought with spiritual weapons. Thus, praying fervently for spiritual awakening and moral renewal is priority one for Christians.

Two: Guard your heart

We must be the change we want others to adopt. Here’s where to start: David testified, “I will ponder the way that is blameless” (Psalm 101:2). To become “blameless,” make this commitment: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless” (v. 3, my emphasis).

If we do, we must deal with it immediately. Like cancer, denying sin permits it to metastasize: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Ask the Spirit to show you anything you need to confess, then confess what comes to your thoughts and claim God’s forgiving grace (v. 9).

Three: Seek the power of God

Are you living and working in supernatural power? God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). In these critical days, we dare not limit his power by our faith. Settle for nothing less than his best.

God will never ask you to do something he will not enable you to do. “He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14) and thus empowers our frailty with his omnipotence and our finitude with his omniscience. You can do “nothing” without Christ (John 15:5) but “all things” with him (Philippians 4:13).

Theologian R. C. Sproul observed, “The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in.”

Do you?


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