As we think about all the events that precede the return of Jesus Christ to this beleaguered earth, the magnitude and impact is hard to imagine. Of course, many events are the direct result of God’s intervening hand – miraculous happenings which directly impact life all over the planet. What we perhaps do not focus on so much is the potential for “natural” occurrences to disrupt the normal routine of life. In fact, we are already seeing many of the signs Christ said would be the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:8).
This past week we witnessed the incredible destruction caused by a powerful hurricane as it built up in the Gulf of Mexico and came on land in Texas and Louisiana. It was possibly the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the history of that area.
This followed weeks of raging out-of-control wildfires in California causing great loss and destruction. All with a “natural” cause of lightning strikes from dry thunderstorms. These storms rolled up the California coast at a time of the year when they do not usually develop. In the typical rainless summer, vegetation was tinder dry and highly combustible.
Most people in California are keenly aware of the potential for earthquakes and are continually reminded that the “big one” is overdue. What is not talked about or generally known is a fascinating piece of the state’s history.
Most of the rainfall for California occurs in the winter and is produced by a weather phenomenon known as atmospheric rivers. Moisture rises from the tropical Pacific Ocean and gathers into streams in the atmosphere which are then driven north and east onto the coast of California. Usually these storms produce much needed moderate amounts of rainfall.
In the winter of 1861-62, a series of atmospheric rivers dumped 66 inches of rain on the state in a short period of time. A cold arctic storm laid down 10 to 15 feet of snow on the Sierra mountains which was immediately followed by the warmer rain. The resulting fast snow melt caused water to cascade into the Central Valley causing an immense amount of damage and loss of life. The Central Valley is some 450 miles long and averages 50 miles wide. The two major river systems from the north and the south drain through the vast Delta into the sprawling 550 square mile San Francisco Bay. The only outlet is under the 1.7-mile-long Golden Gate Bridge.
The combination of melting snow and heavy rainfall caused the Valley to become a huge lake with water depths recorded up to 15 feet in places. The devastation needs no imagination to picture. Scientists say this is a “naturally” reoccurring event which has happened before and that we are in line for another “big one.” When the population and cities in the Valley are considered, along with the one quarter of the nation’s food that is produced there, the potential for major catastrophe is enormous.
As we consider the lead up to the events surrounding the return of Christ, the potential for major natural events to impact human life anywhere on earth is high. We live each day as a direct gift of the merciful grace of God. Anywhere in this world, at any time, a natural situation could develop which could kill many, many people.
God says “… for all the earth is Mine” (Exodus 19:5), and He is in complete control. In this we walk by faith and not by sight.
We need to express our deep gratitude for every day of life that He grants. We need His daily protection and guidance.
We live by the grace of God.