November 18, 2020
We can easily understand why natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions occur. But, despite our scientific understanding, the question remains: If God is loving and all-powerful, why does He allow natural disasters to happen?
This year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippines was battered by a series of typhoons that destroyed homes and properties and claimed the lives of many of our countrymen.
In the wake of these disasters, we struggle to find meaning for our suffering, we hold on to our faith for as long as we can, we do our best to keep our hopes up, and we wait on God to reveal His purpose. Yet most of the time, we still don’t understand why an all-powerful and all-knowing God would allow us to suffer.
Is God really involved?
Insurance companies use the term “acts of God” to refer to natural calamities that can’t be prevented or predicted. Are natural calamities really an “act of God?”
Many well-meaning Christians attempt to absolve God from being involved in any disaster. But the Bible tells us that He allows, and even causes natural disasters. Here’s some proof:
During the time of Noah, it was God who sent the flood to destroy the whole earth. In God’s own words, “Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.” (Genesis 7:4)
In the book of Exodus, we read how God caused plagues and famine to hit the nation of Egypt.
In 1 Kings 17–18, the Bible tells us that God caused the rain to stop for three years and six months because of Elijah’s prayer.
God has absolute power to command nature, and natural disasters happen within God’s providential will. Either God allows it or He directly causes it. But why?
While we can’t always understand, let alone fully comprehend, God’s reason for allowing natural disasters to happen, there are several lessons that we can learn from them.
1. Natural disasters show us that the world is severely broken and needs redemption. Sin and evil have cursed the ground (Genesis 3:17). Sin does not just result in moral decay; it is also the ultimate cause of death, diseases, and disasters.
Romans 8:22 tells us that “the whole creation has been groaning” like a woman who is experiencing the labor pains of childbirth. Natural calamities may be part of nature’s way of groaning as it “waits in eager expectation” for redemption that will happen when Jesus returns (Romans 8:19–21).
Not only is the world broken by sin; the world continues to decay because of people’s greed, negligence, and abuse that stem from the sin reigning in our hearts.
2. Natural disasters can be God’s way of carrying out His purpose and will. As we can see in the stories of Noah, Moses, and Elijah, God used natural disasters to accomplish His purpose in the world.
God did not invent disasters. Man’s sin paved the way for this curse. Yet God turns even the worst disaster into good as He carries out His will. When we take time to read these stories, we see that through them, God carried out some of His greatest miracles, moved forward His rescue plan to save the world, and showed that His power and might are ultimate.
3. Natural disasters remind us that this broken world is not our home. The sting of death and the shadow of fear tell us that we were not created to experience death. We were made for another world—a world where death and suffering don’t exist and where people live in peace and harmony.
Hence, natural disasters remind us that material and temporal pursuits don’t mean much. Fires and floods take away lives and hard-earned properties in the blink of an eye. This world is broken and temporary. We are exiles who are longing for home.
Human life is precious and life on earth is a gift, but this life is merely a prelude to the life we’ll live in eternity. Life on earth is short, but eternity is long.
The harrowing video that recently circulated on social media in which people were crying for rescue is still seared in my memory. After hearing the grief and the desperate cries, the only thing that I could utter at that time was, “Lord, intervene.”
But, where was God while these people were crying for help? Where was He when the storm was ravaging the country? What was God doing? Had He gone MIA? Was God sleeping at the wheel?
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.
Psalm 29:10,11 (NIV 1984)
He is the LORD—powerful, loving, gracious, and mighty to save. He never leaves His post and doesn’t relinquish command. He is King forever. He is fully in charge. He is always in control.
And because He is enthroned over the flood, He isn’t affected by our situation. Not that He doesn’t care, but since He is above the situation, He doesn’t panic or fear. These things don’t catch Him off-guard.
He sits on His throne over the flood. He sees our situation. He sees our needs. Take refuge in Him and He will answer.
“Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
Isaiah 58:9 (NIV 1984)
But God isn’t just seated on His throne, shouting orders from heaven. He is with us as we experience the flood and the fury of the storms.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . .
Isaiah 43:1–3 (NIV)
God doesn’t just promise to silence the storms in our lives. He promised that when we find ourselves in the middle of a storm, He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is Immanuel, God with us.
Because we live in a broken world, disasters and calamities are bound to happen. Death comes uninvited. Sufferings and trials come our way. But God’s greatest intervention—and our greatest assurance—is the CROSS.
Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, God redeemed creation from the grip of evil to renew everything when Judgment Day comes. Not only does He desire to redeem the world, He desires to save humanity from complete destruction.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV)
Just as God painted His rainbow in the sky to assure Noah that He would no longer completely destroy mankind with a flood, God has given us the cross as a sign of His everlasting promise—that He will someday rid the world of all kinds of disaster as He makes His home with us, His children.
Photo by: Dan Tan