The Hand of God
Vol: 47 Issue: 30 Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Hurricane Katrina roared in with all the destructive power she will billed to deliver, but she stopped short of utterly destroying New Orleans as predicted.
I have no doubt that many of you were praying for New Orleans, as was I, and I am confident that it was the power of prayer that turned Katrina at the last minute from making landfall directly over New Orleans.
It wasn’t that New Orleans was ‘spared’ in the conventional sense. The storm was massive, and the damage was extensive. The body count has not yet been tallied, and the full extent of the death and destruction may never be completely known.
At the time of this writing, at many as sixty-five persons are being reported as dead by the media, but the toll is expected to go much higher as rescue and recovery efforts continue.
Forecasters predicted that, had Katrina’s eye passed directly over New Orleans, the city would have literally been destroyed. Had Katrina not shifted, waters could have spilled over levees and swamped the saucer-shaped city in a toxic soup of chemicals, sewage and human bodies.
It was expected that the water levels throughout the New Orleans metropolitan area would be under thirty feet of water this morning.
In nearby coastal St. Bernard Parish, the storm surge swamped an estimated 40,000 homes.
In a particularly low-lying neighborhood on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, a levee on a canal gave way and forced dozens of residents to flee or scramble to the roofs as water rose to their gutters.
But at the last moment, as if turned by the Hand of God, Katrina suddenly weakened slightly, and shifted direction slightly to the east, leaving New Orleans on its western, slightly weaker side.
Damage was severe to catastrophic in much of Louisiana and Mississippi, including the latter’s coastal tourist havens of Biloxi and Gulfport, and one of the levees protecting New Orleans, which sits below sea level, was breached.
But New Orleans itself was ‘spared’ in the sense the city itself survived. There were an estimated 100,000 New Orleans residents who were unable or unwilling to evacuate.
Had Katrina made landfall slightly further west, as predicted, the death toll could have been numbered in the tens of thousands, and New Orleans itself could have been wiped off the map and replaced with a giant, toxic lake.
The situation is incredibly grim; residents are being cautioned not to return ‘for a month or more’ say New Orleans officials; levees have been breached and water levels in the city are rising, but the city will survive, as will most of its residents.
Katrina was one of the most costly storms in American history, but had it not shifted at the last minute, the costs would have been much, much higher.
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in MY Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in My Name, I will do it.” John 14:13-14)
As I was praying for the city, I didn’t know what to pray for. After all, praying that the storm would miss New Orleans meant that it would hit somewhere else.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)
As it happened, Katrina’s eye made landfall over Grand Island, which had been almost completely evacuated. Only seven people remained on the island, and they have not been heard from since.
It seems odd, when one considers how devastating Katrina was, to characterize the destruction as an answer to prayer, but had the storm made landfall where forecast, that toll could have had several zeroes after it.
Scripture says we don’t really know what to pray for, but the Spirit of God does, and He intercedes for us so our prayers are answered according to His will. Despite the death and destruction wrought by Katrina, things could have been so much worse.
I will continue to pray for the millions affected by Katrina, as I am certain you will. But we have the confidence of knowing that our God is a prayer-answering God. Even when we don’t like the answer, we can know that God has a plan and He will do His will.
“And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” (1st John 5:14-15)
Millions of Christians prayed that Katrina’s power would be minimized. At the last moment, just before it was too late, Katrina made that critical shift.
As I said, it seems odd to consider the unprecedented death and destruction wrought by Katrina to be an answer to prayer. But it was.
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1st Thessalonians 5:18)
May God bless those affected by Katrina, and their families. You remain in our prayers.