Whether for discipline, or for the good of his earth, or out of mercy, he makes the storm appear. - Job 37:13
We all know why it rains - to cleanse the earth, to water the fields, to nourish the crops - but why does it storm? This, above perhaps all other of theology's pressing questions, is that one that causes most of us pause. We just don't know what to do with suffering.
And I'm not sure that verses like this passage from Job are all that helpful.
Sure, sometimes the storms are discipline. They remind us of our limitations. Later in the book of Job, when God responds to Job's inquiry, He asks the troubled man, Can you thunder, Job? And of course, Job cannot. Not only can he not thunder, but he can hardly determine what to do with thunder at all. This, too, is our testimony. We cannot thunder, but neither do we know what to do with the thunder. It makes us stop. When the storms come and we don't know what to do, we find so often that we do nothing.
Like some cosmic time out. Like, just for a moment or two, we're pulled away from everything we were doing because now, we have to do this. But we don't know how to do this, so we do nothing, and the space created by the storm gives us new perspective on what seemed so pressing before the rains started to fall. So yes, sometimes, the storms are discipline.
And we know the storms are often for the good of His earth. We've already discussed that when we discussed the rains - cleansing, watering, nourishing. Storms, too, have their place. It is through the storm that all the pent-up energy of the earth is channeled and released. Most of us can understand this. We, too, get pent up with energy and if there's not a way to get it out of us, we'll simply explode. We'll go off on everyone and everything close to us and cause tremendous harm. For the good of the earth, sometimes it storms so that it doesn't explode.
By the way, isn't it interesting at times like these to think about the vast amount of energy in Creation? It's so easy for us to forget about this, but we're literally surrounded not by idleness, but by energy. The grass, the trees, the flowers, the clouds, the skies, the storms - they're all energy. They're all alive. They're all pulsing with the heartbeat of the Creator. Sometimes, the beat just gets to overwhelming and the world has to dance. So it storms, which is one way it dances and praises the God who instilled it with such energy.
We can easily combine each of these first two ideas into the third, that sometimes the storm is mercy. When it is discipline, it gives us pause; when it is mercy, it gives us rest in much the same way. And we all need a little rest. What more can you do in the storm but ride it out? Can you direct the lightning? Can you make preparations? Can you ignore the wind and the waves? Of course not. But you can shelter for a minute and stop. It may seem like an inconvenience, but think for a moment. How much do you need sometimes just to stop? This is mercy.
And the release of energy is mercy, too, for the reason mentioned above: so this whole thing doesn't blow up. It's mercy that there's a way to channel our energies, for the world to channel its energies. It's mercy that there's something to do with the great depth of angst that God has put into us.
But there's something almost wholly unsatisfying about these ideas, isn't there?
When the storms come, if we take this guide from Job, we're left trying to determine why we're being disciplined, which drives us into trouble over our own souls where perhaps there may be none. We're experts at finding something wrong with ourselves, and if we look hard enough, we'll find it. And if we're looking for the good in the storm, the benefit of it, we may forget to respect the rains. And we still sort of feel victimized by it all. Why must the skies thunder over us for the greater good? We can start to feel unfairly burdened by it all. Or maybe we look past the wind in search of mercy. Then what? It doesn't feel like mercy. So we chide ourselves for not knowing mercy when it strikes us in the face.
See, all these things we think about the storms, they can cause us to rage inside of ourselves. They're not sufficient to answer the questions we have about suffering, even if they do seem to be Scriptural in some sense. There has to be something more to the troubles we experience on this earth.
We know the reason for the rain, but what are we to make of the storms?