Evangelist Billy Graham has offered up a reminder that God can sometimes uses natural disasters, such as Hurricane Matthew, to speak to us "just as He can use other difficulties and tragedies to turn our hearts toward Him."
The 97-year-old evangelist shared his thoughts on the issue after a reader asked him if national disasters are an instrument of God's judgment.
Disasters remind us of "the brevity of life," the evangelist wrote on the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "We may be strong and successful, and assume life is always going to be that way - but when disaster strikes, we realize this isn't true."
He quotes Isaiah 38:17, "Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction."
Hurricane Matthew, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, has left 1.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. The storm wreaked havoc in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia over the weekend before it was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday as it headed east over the Atlantic.
The death toll spans all five Southeastern states: 10 people were killed in North Carolina, six died in Florida, four in Georgia, two in South Carolina and one in Virginia, authorities said on Monday. In Haiti, the damage is far worse: Matthew took over 1,000 lives, and at least 13 people on the Caribbean island have also died from outbreaks of cholera since the storm, and about 61,500 people were in shelters, officials said
"Disasters also can remind us of our need to help others, and not just be concerned about ourselves and our problems," Graham writes. "I will never forget the way that disaster brought people from different backgrounds together, especially in the churches," he says, adding that his son, Franklin Graham, who leads both BGEA and Samaritan's Purse, has visited some of the hurricane affected areas.
Graham quotes Galatians 6:2 to encourage Christians to provide help, just as many Christian groups are responding to the disaster. "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ," the verse reads.
"We don't necessarily know why God allows natural disasters to occur; sometimes Satan seems to have a hand in them," Graham concludes. "But the time to prepare for life's crises is now, not when they strike. Is your faith and trust in Christ, and are you seeking to live for Him every day, no matter what happens."
The evangelist's eldest son, Franklin Graham, on Sunday shared how his organization, Samaritan's Purse, already has a dozen people responding to the damage resulting from Hurricane Matthew as part of its Disaster Assistance Response team.
"We already sent our cargo plane two times with loads of relief supplies including blankets, heavy-duty plastic sheeting, water filters, and hygiene kits-and we will be sending much more," he wrote. "Join me in praying not only for those here in the U.S. who are hurting, but also for our neighbors in Haiti."