When an earthquake rocked northwest Syria on February 6, the country was already in ruins, experiencing an epic humanitarian and economic crisis. Of the 4.5 million people living in the region, 4.1 million people were already in need of assistance.
Then, the ground violently shook...
- 4,500+ lives were lost
- Many thousands more were seriously injured
- An estimated 10,000 buildings were decimated
It’s difficult not to wonder why God allowed this natural disaster to occur. In a land plagued by years of civil war and economic dysfunction, persecution of Christians, poverty, and pain...why did He heap on more pain, death, and despair?
Disaster cannot defeat God or derail His plans and purposes. All nature is under His control: all things work together.
• God Cannot Be Divorced from Disasters
• God Employs the Elements of Nature in the Operation of the World
• God Employs the Elements of Nature in Opposition to Evil
• God Cannot Be Discredited by Disasters
• God Cannot Be Defined by Disasters
• God Cannot Be Defeated by Disasters
We only have to look as far as God’s Word to understand why natural disasters happen, and what they tell us about God. The book of Job offers many answers!
In fact, Job’s story has served as a solace for those struggling with the existence and impact of evil in this world. As the oldest book in the Bible, it addresses the issue of natural disasters that has existed since humans have walked the earth. The Bible does not shy away from life's harsh questions or attempt to divert our attention. Rather, it invites us to join Job at the graveyard, looking upon the remnants of his shattered dreams and questioning God's actions.
So what does the story of Job and the ongoing destruction from natural disasters say about who God is and how He is at work in the world?
God Cannot Be Divorced from Disasters
I think many Christians often adopt a sort of deism in an attempt to get God off the hook. It allows us to affirm the goodness of God in the face of terrible evils simply by saying it’s not His fault. He created a good world, and He should not be blamed if it goes wrong. But Scripture is clear that God is actively at work in the universe (Job 37).
Another way we extricate God from responsibility for disasters is to blame them all on Satan. But we know from Job’s story that Satan cannot do anything without God’s permission (Job 1:8-12). If Satan has to get permission from God to do what he does, then God is still in control and reigns in human affairs. People sense His control over everything when they call natural disasters “acts of God.”
God Employs the Elements of Nature in the Operation of the World
The Bible contains many passages refuting the idea that God set nature in motion and now lets it run as it will. Many Scriptures present a hands-on God intimately involved in controlling and sustaining all events in the natural world.
In heaven and in earth,
In the seas and in all deep places.
He causes the vapors to ascend from
the ends of the earth;
He makes lightning for the rain;
He brings the wind out of His treasuries.
He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and
sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
God Employs the Elements of Nature in Opposition to Evil
In the Bible, God employs natural disasters as punishment: the flood sparing Noah's family (Genesis 6-8), Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction (Genesis 19:24), Egypt's plagues (Exodus 7-12), and addressing disobedience in Amos 4. If we're ever tempted to separate God from natural disaster, Amos 4:6-11 should stop us in our tracks.
We assume more than we understand by distancing God from the world's calamities. If God doesn't control disasters, how can we trust Him to govern our lives and future? He must be involved in all aspects of the world or none at all.
Before going any further, it's important to separate God's overall judgment on human sin from judgments on specific people. Although all judgments relate to sin and involve disasters, it's inaccurate to say every disaster is a punishment for a certain sin by a specific person or nation.
God Cannot Be Discredited by Disasters
Some people argue that disasters prove God doesn't exist.
However, once an atheist, C.S. Lewis saw disasters as evidence for God's existence. He questioned how we could perceive injustice without an inherent sense of justice. The presence of justice and perfection in an imperfect world suggests a good God exists.
Large-scale deaths in disasters don't discredit God any more than individual deaths, as all people will eventually die. Often it’s the sudden and unexpected nature of simultaneous deaths that shocks us more.
God Cannot Be Defined by Disasters
After disasters, people will say something like, “I could never believe in a God who would allow such awful things to happen to His creatures.” These people desire a "helicopter parent" God who guarantees safety and happiness. However, God disciplines us for our growth.
Despite the world's evils, there is also much good. We should consider both when defining God.
Blessings outnumber tragedies, and we shouldn't let others define God for us. Although bad things happen, God's love and gifts are abundant, as is His discipline. We must consider the whole equation.
God Cannot Be Defeated by Disasters
We might occasionally feel that God's plans have been disrupted when disasters occur. Let's permit God to address this topic Himself:
I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, “My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure.” . . .
Indeed I have spoken it;
I will also bring it to pass.
I have purposed it;
I will also do it.
Disasters can make it seem like God isn't in control. We must remember that our limited view can't grasp the entire pattern. In moments like these, it's essential to recall Romans 8:28, which tells us, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
This verse doesn't mean that evil things are inherently good. Instead, it highlights that God uses adverse events to achieve good outcomes for those who love Him. By working together, these elements produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual impacts.
This is why disaster cannot defeat God or derail His plans and purposes. All nature is under His control: all things work together. The One who controls nature holds us in His hands.
Please pray and give today as God leads. Thank you!