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The Whys Have No Answer


In these last few days, most of us have witnessed what we have never seen before. I never could have imagined the fury of the most devastating hurricane ever to strike the United States and the first hurricane in 30 years to come across Florida with any magnitude. Just seven days ago in this very sanctuary, I was feeling the frustration of having many things to do in order to prepare my own home and wondering if I had time to get it all done.

My nephew called four times that Sunday afternoon, urging my wife and me to leave Fort Lauderdale and get out of south Florida. Where would the hurricane come ashore? Would it be as bad as some people said? Some people fled, and others decided to ride it out. Whatever decision we made and whatever happened, all of us are different today in our viewpoint and our understanding of God's power and the fury of nature. We have insights we didn't have a few days ago.

Have you wondered why this kind of disaster would strike? Why is it that suddenly the southern end of Florida is wrapped with tragedy? This week one person shared her feelings about the hurricane. She said, "The song that keeps going through my mind is a chorus that a lot of us learned in Sunday school: 'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.' One verse says he's got you and me in his hands, and another verse says he's got the little bitty babies in his hands. You know, if he's got the little bitty babies in his hands, if he had the people of south Florida in his hands this week, then it appears to me that God's not doing too good a job of protecting his possessions."

Some would say, "If the God who loves us is powerful and in control, how could he let this happen?"

We have seen a glimpse of the tragedy on television. A number of us in this church began to see it first hand as we sent volunteers and supplies. As a congregation, we have been doing a great job in supporting this relief effort. But the thought still comes that if God has south Florida in his hand, why is it that he squeezed it into such a mangled, beaten-up, little ball this past week? Why did it happen? What was God doing?

The Bible recognizes the feeling that sometimes God seems to have lost control

As you consider Scripture, one of the clear truths is that God, who claims omnipotent power, seems sometimes to have lost control.

In 2 Samuel, David has been pursued by Saul, who intends to kill him. David, in this particular portion of 2 Samuel, has just escaped from one of Saul's assassination attempts. David moans and cries out to God. "In my distress I called to the Lord. In my distress I called out to my God." I dare say early Monday morning, in a lot of houses across the southern end of Florida, there were people who had that very Scripture in mind as they cried out to God for help.

Just yesterday I heard a story from one of the survivors in Homestead about a couple who had decided to ride out the storm at home. They began in a bedroom, moved to a closet, and finally went into the bathroom. The radio said it was the room where they might be able to survive. They put their little child in the cupboard under the bathroom sink and sat down on the floor, with their feet against the tub and their backs against the cupboard. They sat there most of the early morning hours as they heard the house disintegrating around them. Early in the morning the ceiling in the bathroom began to fall, and the husband raised his left arm to keep the ceiling off them as they shoved against the door of the cupboard. When the storm finally ended, he forced open the bathroom door and stepped out into his back yard.

Why this kind of fury? David says, "God, I cry out to you in all of my distress and in my fear. There was no one else I could call." Psalm 107 wasn't speaking about hurricane Andrew, and it would be unfair to relate what was happening at the time of that psalm to what's going on in Florida, but at the same time that psalmist made some observations that might have a point for us. While I know that it's being free with the Word, just think of your own feelings these last hours on Monday. Think of how the people who went through that experience had it in their own lives. Psalm 107:

"Some sat in darkness and in deepest gloom." In our case, they hid in a closet or lay in the bathtub. "Some drew near to the gates of death," or watched the roof disintegrate and the walls explode around them.

"Some wandered in wastelands, finding no way to a place where they could settle," or in our case, where a house was still standing.

Others "saw the works of the Lord … for he … stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves." And those caught in its midst "reeled and staggered like drunken men."

This psalmist was not writing about a hurricane named Andrew. But he was writing about a life that does have within it disaster and hurts and uncertainty. Listen to how he concludes that portion. Those who were caught in all of that destruction and all of that fear "cried out to the Lord … and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; and the waves of the sea were hushed."

People, if you and I look at the world where we've lived for the last 30 years, we have been fortunate. We have been told over and over again that what has happened this weekend is something that south Florida should expect to have happen periodically. Most of us had fallen into that complacent feeling, thinking it probably would never happen, but there are times when everything we have is going to be torn asunder and pulled from us.

That issue was raised with Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, in the thirteenth chapter. It says in the first verse, "There were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices." We don't know who raised that issue with Jesus. Some people present may have been family members, relatives, and friends of the Galileans who were massacred while they were doing their Sabbath worship. We don't know who they were.

They may have been simply raising a question with no answer, just to see what they could stir up. They may have been like my friend sincerely asking, "If God is in control, why does he allow Galileans to be murdered during their worship? Why does God, if he's good, let things happen that are not what God would do?"

If God is in control, why was there a storm on Monday? If God is just, why does he allow looters to steal the pittance that people have left when the storm is over? If this church is in God's hand, why in the world would he allow some thieves to come in here in the middle of the hurricane and cut the lock on the storage door and steal all our lawn equipment? Makes no sense. If we are in God's control here in this church, why would God allow our van, when it was delivering emergency supplies, to have a hit-and-run driver crash into the front? If God is in control, why does he allow things to happen that we don't think ought to happen?

Jesus says sometimes there is no answer

Those who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices were saying, "If God is in control, why does he let people suffer like that?" Notice! Jesus never did answer their question. He never did explain why. Jesus' answer was, "Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than all of the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no!" Then he went on to say: "Listen, what they had happen to them wasn't very serious. All they did was die. You've really got some serious problems, because you need to deal with some eternal matters. You'd better get straight in your relationship with God, or you're going to be in a lot worse shape than they were in."

Jesus never answered the why question. He simply said, "Don't ever fall into the trap of thinking when disaster strikes, the people must have been bad."

Look at the fourth verse: "Or those 18 who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no!" Here a group of 18 people are standing on a street corner, and all of a sudden a wall falls off a building and crushes them. Jesus says, "Is there any reason we can give to explain that? Was something wrong with those people? Was there something they did that was bad? No!" Jesus never did answer why.

I believe the reason he never said why is because there is no answer to the why. Why did that hurricane hit Florida? The meteorologists tell us there was a high-pressure zone up around Jacksonville and another somewhere down in the Caribbean. The hurricane couldn't go north or south, so it just kept on coming west through Florida.

When we lived in Oklahoma, half of our town was wiped out by a tornado. People would ask, "Why?" And I can remember asking myself, "Why not? Why shouldn't a tornado hit Drumright?"

Why shouldn't a hurricane hit south Florida? What is the difference between our area and any of the other cities that might have been struck? Why do these things happen? Why not? We live in a world where high and low pressure zones exist, and they must exist to keep the world operating. There are times when the wind goes crazy. And it went through south Florida just as it could have gone anywhere else. We in this church could be doing the same thing Christians are doing in churches in Homestead today: standing in the yard—because they can't get into their buildings—for a brief service of thanksgiving because they're still alive.

Why do things happen like that? Because they just happen. Thunderstorms happen. After everything Homestead has gone through, why would there be a six-inch rain dumped on Homestead? Why not? A week ago a six-inch rain wouldn't have made any difference in Homestead. It would have been watering the grass. Last night it made a difference. It probably tore off most of the material that had been put on the houses yesterday afternoon and flooded them all again. Accidents happen. Blizzards happen. Car wrecks happen. Thievery happens. There is no explanation. They just happen. So in south Florida today there are at least 180,000 people who have no homes. There are at least 63,000 homes destroyed. There were 25 deaths. Why does it happen? There is no answer.

The Scripture says that much of our lives we enjoy and most things that occur to us are good. But every once in a while, we find ourselves standing on a street corner and the tower of a building falls on us. Or once in a while we're in the middle of worship and some bunch of hoodlums burst in the back door and rob or kill us all. And once in a while in the middle of a hurricane, our house blows apart. Once in a while things happen, and when they happen there is no explanation.

There are three ways to respond to disaster

The Scripture says that when these things happen, there are just three things to do. The first thing is in Psalm 18:

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer;
my God is my rock in whom I take refuge.

When everything has fallen apart around me, it is God, the psalmist says, upon whom we can depend. It is God upon whom we can trust, and it is God upon whom we will call if we die in the middle of the tragedy.

I heard a television interview with a lady who had been in the closet under the stairs during the hurricane. They asked what was she doing as her house fell apart around her. She said, "All we could do was pray."

I saw a video taken by a man and woman during the storm. They got in the bathtub, and he said the thing he wanted to do was hold the trigger down on that video camera, because they both thought they were going to die, and this at least would be a record of the last moments of their lives.

When these tragedies happen, when there is no explanation and no reason beyond what meteorologists will tell us is a natural occurrence, we can only say, "God, you are my rock; you are my fortress. As my house falls apart around me, you are my hope and my strength."

The second thing comes in Revelation. The Book of Revelation tells of the last of the battles between good and evil. That book closes with a promise of what is going to happen: '"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (21:4).

The Bible is saying, "Look, when things fall apart, trust that it is not the end." Is a hurricane coming through your house? The windows are gone. The roof is shaking, the walls are bulging. It is not the end of all there is. The day will come when God will wipe away all tears. If you die in the house, that day is yours. Why does it happen? Nobody knows. But the promise is that one day God will bring uniformity and peace out of this chaos in which we live.

The last thing I will point out is found in a letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians. Those Corinthian Christians were suffering. It wasn't with hurricanes. It was suffering with arrests and imprisonment and death with lions. Those Christians were going through the agony of losing people they loved. Paul wrote letters to the Corinthian Christians. In the first chapter of the second letter, Paul says we should be giving praise to God, our Lord, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is "the Father of compassion and the God of comfort, who comforts all of us in our trouble."

Then Paul makes this key statement: God comforts us in all our troubles "so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

We can't stop hurricanes, and we can't keep one from coming right through the middle of our bedrooms. But what we can do is recognize that we who have been given the comfort of God have the ability to give the same kind of comfort that we ourselves have been blessed to receive.


There is no answer to the why. It happened because circumstances were just right. The truth is, God is there in Homestead. God is in south Florida wherever there is hurt. In the midst of suffering or joy, God is there. The writers of Scripture say God is there. There is little more that you and I can ever say than, "God, we thank you, we praise you, we love you, and we trust in you."

For Your Reflection

Personal growth: How has this sermon fed your own soul? ___________________________________________

Skill growth: What did this sermon teach you about how to preach? ____________________________________________________________________________

Exegesis and exposition: Highlight the paragraphs in this sermon that helped you better understand Scripture. How does the sermon model ways you could provide helpful biblical exposition for your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Theological Ideas: What biblical principles in this sermon would you like to develop in a sermon? How would you adapt these ideas to reflect your own understanding of Scripture, the Christian life, and the unique message that God is putting on your heart? ____________________________________________________________________________

Outline: How would you improve on this outline by changing the wording, or by adding or subtracting points? _____________________________________________________________________

Application: What is the main application of this sermon? What is the main application of the message you sense God wants you to bring to your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Illustrations: Which illustrations in this sermon would relate well with your hearers? Which cannot be used with your hearers, but they suggest illustrations that could work with your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Credit: Do you plan to use the content of this sermon to a degree that obligates you to give credit? If so, when and how will you do it?

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Sermon Outline:


I. The Bible recognizes the feeling that sometimes God seems to have lost control

II. Jesus says sometimes there is no answer

III. There are three ways to respond to disaster