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Coronavirus slamming world economies. More bloody conflicts. Governments in peril. With all society had to contend with in 2020, it seemed things could not have gotten worse…
But they did, as record-setting weather and costly environmental disasters hit an unsuspecting world, compounding the misery of the pandemic. The devastation left in their wake becomes yet another reason 2020 was a uniquely difficult year.
One man, whose home on the small Colombian island of Providencia was damaged by Hurricane Iota, searched for hope in the face of this adversity. “We’ll fight and get ahead because this is a new beginning,” he told The Associated Press. “More than asking God why, we have to be grateful we’re alive.”
Although it is valuable to appreciate life during difficult times, “asking God why” is important. When tragedy strikes, it is natural to wonder how God could allow it or what greater purpose might be at work. Very few understand that the Bible speaks specifically of the natural disasters in today’s headlines.
In Luke 21, Jesus Christ told His disciples that at the end, “earthquakes shall be in diverse places” (vs. 11). The Greek word translated earthquakes carries a broader meaning: “commotion, gale (of the air) and earthquake (of the ground).” In Mark 13:8, He added that there would also be troubles. This word is also illuminating. It means “disturbance, that is, (of water) roiling, or (of a mob) sedition.”
The year’s uptick in severe weather is a prophetic condition foretold in Scripture. And Mark 13:8 shows it would accompany other societal problems like mob sedition! What could sum up 2020 more perfectly?
If the coronavirus was the only challenge that hit the world, it would still have been a year like no other. But with the addition of other complex problems, such as worsening division—global unrest—and unprecedented natural disasters—the impact was even more devastating.
Surely, these developments should get our attention. If a year like this does not cause mankind to stop, consider what is happening and “ask God why,” what else would it take?
Look at just one component of the year’s bad weather. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season set multiple records while producing an unprecedented 30 named storms. There were so many that the list of 21 conventional names was exhausted and the Greek alphabet was used for only the second time in history!
Giovanni Bassu, the regional representative for Central America for the UN refugee agency, told Reuters, “one storm after another is a very sad metaphor for the much broader phenomenon,” referring to the seemingly endless array of downturns striking the world population in 2020.
Also, recall the event that headlined the start of the year: Australia’s worst-ever bush fires that killed at least 33 people, burned more than 46 million acres of bush, forest and parks, and wiped out over 3 billion animals. Known locally as the “Black Summer,” the unusually intense fires directly or indirectly affected nearly 80 percent of Australians.
Conditions did not fare much better during summer in the northern hemisphere, where the Western U.S. was hit with an intense fire season that blanketed the sky above New York City with haze and brought smoke particles as far as the United Kingdom. As many as 3,000 died from the effects of smoke inhalation from the pollution of these fires.
Meanwhile, India, nations in the Mideast and northeastern Africa suffered triple disasters of the virus, a heat wave, and the worst locust invasion in decades.
Also think of the Taal volcano eruption in the Philippines, which displaced nearly 25,000 people—destruction in the American Midwest from a derecho windstorm, which left over 800,000 without electricity—numerous wildfires on the West Coast, which scorched millions of acres—Brazil rainforest blazes, nearly “100,000 fires in the first 10 months of 2020” according to phys.org—and a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Turkey, in which 17 people died and 709 were injured.
With such widespread suffering, all mankind can seem to do is look to the passing of time for relief. By all accounts, however, the future for weather does not look so hopeful.
At least for the short-term…