We think of thunderstorms as a dangerous nuisance, especially here in Florida where storms disrupt afternoon outdoor plans, but they actually serve a beneficial purpose. If you had to make sure all the plants on the planet got enough water to survive, how would you move the water from one place to another? A gallon of water weighs just over eight pounds and one gallon doesn't go very far when you need to provide enough water for a vast forest or grassland. Creeks, streams and rivers carry water from high ground toward the sea, but only those plants with roots right next to the stream benefit, unless there's a flood to spread the water over a wider area.
God waters His earth with rain, and the most powerful engine for moving water from one place to another is a thunderstorm. The updraft in a thunderstorm can carry 8,000 tons of evaporated water aloft every minute. The water vapor rises and cools, forming droplets that eventually weigh too much to remain aloft and fall as rain.
An average thunderstorm cloud is anywhere from 5 to 25 miles in diameter. A large storm will contain up to 275 million gallons of water. To put that in perspective, 750,000 gallons of water fall over Niagara Falls every second. At that rate, it would take six minutes to equal the amount of water in an average thunderstorm. My calculator can't add numbers this big, but if the National Weather Service figures are correct, 275 million gallons adds up to 2.3 billion pounds of water in a thunderstorm.
Not only do we usually think of thunderstorms as a nuisance, we also think they just kind of happen randomly as water evaporates on warm days. What appears random to us is actually described in the Bible as a display of God's providence. As the book of Job approached its climax, a storm gathered and approached Job and his friends. God spoke to Job from the storm and said: Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements...What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth? Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man, to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass? Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew?...Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings that they may go and say to you, 'Here we are'?...Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods stick fast together?" (Job 38:4, 24-28, 34-35, 37-38)
When He wanted Job to see something of His wisdom in the way He governs our lives, God asked if Job understood how all the creatures God has made are cared for every day. According to this passage, God actually governs those hundreds of thunderstorms going on around the world at any given moment on any given day. Scientists can describe how thunderstorms build and function. Without realizing it, they are describing God's handiwork! God created this powerful water-moving engine.
Meteorologists can predict the general direction an afternoon thunderstorm will take, but they can't tell you where a storm will begin to grow or the exact path it will take. God knows. He sends forth lightning. He numbers the clouds. He causes the "waterskins" of the heavens to tilt and pour their water where He wants it poured. He cuts a channel for the torrents of rain. He satisfies a parched land and causes grass to sprout.
The next time you see a thunderstorm, think of this passage in Job and ponder the power and wisdom of God in providing a way to move tons of water in a short time to places where it is needed. Let the storm move you to praise: Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! (Psalm 148:7-8)