As we wander a little away from the busy life of the city, nature begins to present sights that we rarely see. Mountains, hills, waterfalls, lush green plains, rivers, lakes, oceans, beaches, the clear blue sky, bring peace, serenity and tranquility to the spirit within us. When we explore nature further, we begin to feel overpowered by its awesomeness. Raw nature can be disturbing and even frightening, making us think of the mighty hand of God that has shaped all creation. But at times, nature can be angry, furious, relentless and unremorseful. Cyclones, earthquakes, droughts and floods can take the lives of thousands of people and render millions homeless and destitute. And then we ask, “What is God doing?”.

God’s role in natural disasters is clarified in the Bible in the Old Testament, the First Book of Kings, Chapter 19. Here we read about the persecution that the prophet Elijah was suffering under the regime of Queen Jezebel who believed in a god named Baal and King Ahab who did whatever the queen wanted. Jezebel sent Elijah a message that she would get him killed within a day. He was scared and ran for his life towards the faraway land of Horeb. When he was tired, he rested under a tree and asked God to bring an end to his torment by taking his life. But God had other plans for Elijah. He arranged for an angel to give him nourishment every day so that he could continue on his journey.

Strengthened by that food, Elijah travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Bible says that “the Lord was not in the wind.”

After the violent wind storm there was a powerful earthquake, but the Bible again says that “the Lord was not in the earthquake” either.

There was a third catastrophic event that followed the earthquake. This came in the form of a raging fire, but then again the Bible says that “the Lord was not in the fire.”

So where was God?

The Bible narrative continues to tell us that after the fury of all the three violent natural calamities had abated, came a gentle breeze. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Some Bible versions translate it as “a gentle whisper”, others as “a still, small voice”.

I Kings Chapter 19 tells us clearly that God may not choose to speak to people through violent nature. He can talk to us directly through our hearts in a still, small voice that we should train ourselves to hear.