The first snowfall of the year is always something magical. I love to look out at the ordinary world that has been transfigured. Messy piles have disappeared, dirty things are covered over, and all the trees are clothed in white as if dressed for a wedding. I always feel that a new snowfall is a little invitation from God to interrupt our programmed lives and to come out and play. Children and dogs seem to be the ones who really understand what to do with snow.
Snow, wind, rain, even ice, are not bad things in and of themselves, and they are actually a blessing which makes life possible on earth. If we approach the world with this attitude, we realize that when we say “bad” weather, we usually mean “inconvenient weather” or “weather I didn’t want.” Thanks be to God that truly bad weather, devastating and destructive weather, does not happen very often.
When really bad weather does happen, it is true that many people suffer. I am thinking of terrible storms, mud slides, droughts, ice storms, hurricanes, and devastating tornadoes. If there really is a loving and caring God, why are there storms at all? After all, the Bible tells us that Jesus was out in a boat, and when a storm blew up, He ordered the winds to be quiet, and they stopped immediately (see Mark 4:35-41). If Jesus can calm a storm with one word, why does he keep quiet? Does God enjoy stirring up some terrible storms in his kitchen and pouring them out on major cities?
Before answering this question, remember that modern man has rather absurd expectations for the weather. Since modern life is excessively organized and rather predictable, modern man unconsciously expects the weather to be the same way. This attitude is compounded by the meteorologist who informs us that rainfall is six inches above normal and the temperature is two decrees below the average for this time of year. This leaves the casual viewer wondering “Why is the weather so off this year? The truth is that no year ever has average weather: the weather is never “normal”, because the weather has never been domesticated.
This is why our ancestors always prayed for good weather; they knew that storms naturally have a tendency to run wild. Who but God and his angels can dissipate the storm fronts and herd the tornadoes away from our houses? Rather than saying “bad weather is God’s curse”, the Christian attitude is to say that “good weather is God’s blessings, let’s ask God to please bless us.” If we begin with this attitude, then we thank God whenever the weather has allowed us to plant crops and have a good harvest. There was one lady who, at the morning intercessions, would always pray “In thanksgiving for continued protection of our parish and community from severe storms and natural disasters, we pray to the Lord.” That church is still standing, perhaps because of her prayers?
Unless we train ourselves by force of habit, we naturally do the opposite of this lady. We forget to ask God for good weather so our crops might grow, we don’t ask him for protection from storms, and we don’t bother to thank God when the weather is good or the harvest has been abundant. As a society and a nation, we have pretty much turned our back on God. We ignore the patterns of nature, which used to be called “natural law”; we ignore the design of our own bodies and do with them whatever we feel like doing; we ignore the goodness of the people around us and treat them like dirt; we ignore the goodness of dirt and fill it with trash and poisons.
God warned the people of Israel that if they turned their back on Him, and “walked contrary to Him”, then He would turn His back on them, and “walk contrary to them” (Leviticus 26:23-24). Storms, especially violent storms, should remind us how little and fragile we are: none of us can command the storms to come or to go, and so we need to stay close to the Lord who does command them. If we haven’t opened our mouth to praise God, we cannot expect Him to open His mouth to quiet the storms which threaten our crops and our homes.
Looking back at the story of Jesus in the boat, it is true that Jesus ordered the storm to be quiet, but this was not because the storm bothered Him. When the storm crashed over the disciples, Jesus was asleep in the boat, completely unconcerned about the tempest, while the disciples were terrified and woke Him up. Jesus was not afraid because He was living His life completely in the service of God the Father, and He knew the boat would get to the other side of the lake because God the Father wanted Him to go there. Yes, Jesus can quiet the storms with a word, but He would rather that we live like He does; not bothered by any storm because the Father has His eye on us. +