The Voice in the Thunder

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Do storms and hardships draw you away from God or close to God? Do you feel God is angry with you?

“Ooh, big clouds! God must be angry.”

Those were the words of a little girl at the pool last week. Five minutes after I got there and opened a book to read, thunder rumbled, lifeguards whistled everyone out, parents started packing up, and a 3-year-old made a huge theological statement.

“No, no,” said her grandfather a little impatiently. “That has nothing to do with it.”

He was right. God’s anger had nothing to do with storm clouds. That idea is a hangover from ancient mythology of impetuous gods. No one believes that anymore.

Except . . . maybe we do.

Sure, we have more sophisticated theology than a 3-year-old, but that’s what makes this thought so sneaky and deceptive. We dress it up in grown-up clothes. It shows up . . 

  • every time life gets difficult and we think, “Lord, what am I doing wrong?”
  • when our desires or goals are thwarted and our mind gravitates toward all the reasons we don’t deserve to have them fulfilled anyway;
  • every fearful impulse that suggests we’ll be disappointed with his will;
  • every expectation that things won’t work about because we didn’t do . . . whatever.

We have a hundred variations on this theme, but all of them assume that God’s goodness and kindness might not apply to us.

It’s true that God can get angry. Scripture is clear about that, and even if it weren’t we’d have to believe he can’t be all that pleased with some of the things that go on in this world. And if we’re living in rebellion against him, we’ll experience some natural consequences of doing things our own way.

But his word is nevertheless very clear about his kindness: he demonstrated his love for us while we were still in rebellion against him (Romans 5:8); it’s his kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4); and perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

All of these statements go against our instincts. Yet all are true. Therefore, our instincts aren’t all that reliable.

That’s the bottom line—that our instincts about God are tainted. We can’t rely on our perceptions. The only thing we have to go on is what he says about himself—and not a statement of judgment plucked randomly from the middle of the story, but his words from the end of the story toward those who believe. Through the filter of redemption in Christ.

In that place, clouds—whether literal or figurative—are never a sign of God’s anger. We forget that he is kindly disposed toward us, ready to lavish his love on anyone who turns toward him, and usually wrongly perceived by us when we’re in the middle of a storm.

I believe that every hardship or crisis is an occasion either to run toward God or run away from him. They are invitations with great rewards for those who accept them, but few even notice them. Those who perceive his anger—or even his indifference—will run away. Those who perceive his invitation to depend on him will run toward him—and discover some deeper revelation of his nature in the midst of the storm.

So, little girl, I certainly understand your remark, but there’s a better way to look at a dark cloud.

“God must be angry”?

No, sweetie, he must be calling. Run to him. Ask him what he wants to show you. It’s going to be good.

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