In early September of 2005, I traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi to work with a disaster relief crew following Hurricane Katrina. We spent ten days preparing and delivering meals to survivors, those whose lives and possessions had been ravaged by the wind and water.
As an Iowa native, I’ve seen what weather can do. We’re no strangers to tornadic destruction. But the aftermath of Katrina was unlike anything I’d ever seen in person.
As we worked that week and then returned home, the words of Job stuck in my head (Job 26:14): “Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
Job rightly declares that the power of God we witness in nature is only a fraction of his strength. The Lord himself will later force Job to reckon with his sovereignty by pointing to his mighty acts among his creatures.
Job is forced to confess (42:1-6):
I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
“Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.”
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.
Like Job, I was humbled by the thought of God’s power. If this hurricane had been only a whisper of his power, I wondered, what would it be like to experience the fullness of his wrath?
Fortunately, I understood that I will never be able to answer that question. Christ bore the fullness of God’s wrath on my behalf, laying down his life in my place in his crucifixion. More that that, he rose from the dead, giving me both present forgiveness of sins and the promise of future resurrection.
That thought gives me comfort for both the future and the present. As Job says (19:25-27):
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
The outcome of meditation on Hurricane Katrina and the book of Job was a hymn text — “The Fury of the Wind.” A few years later this text became my first collaboration with Jeff Bourque, who composed a fitting tune. (Hear it here.)
“The Fury of the Wind” is included in Worship in the Joy of the Lord, selections from Chip Stam’s Worship Quote of the Week newsletter. (Chip was a professor and friend while I was in seminary. He encouraged my hymn writing and challenged me to write well. Read more about Chip here.)
This hymn text was the subject of an interpretation, “What will the preachers say? What will the people sing?” by Mary Louise Bringle in The Hymn: A Journal of Congregational Song, (vol. 57, no 2, Spring 2006) published by The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. It is reprinted here by permission. (Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.)