How God is involved is inevitably asked, not only by those who believe on the existence of a creator God, but also by unbelieving atheists, when there is a disastrous event of great proportions, usually related to natural phenomena, causing death and destruction. Those because they seek for a noble explanation for the event, these to defy the existence of a superior Being.
The question came up again recently when a giant "tsunami" arose in the seas of the Indian ocean, devastating the shores of many Asian countries with loss of life to above 280.000 people according to the latest figures.
A natural cause is sought for the catastrophe, which will satisfy the unbeliever. The natural cause for this "tsunami" has already been found and explained by the geologists: due to a movement of the layers of the earth's crust, subject to great pressure at the bottom of the sea, there was a surge in the waters of the sea with a force equivalent to a thousand atom bombs of the type exploded over Hiroshima at the end of World War II. It is said to have affected even the axis of the Earth.
Now the believer wants a higher reason, for the Bible says "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31 (NKJV). And the unbeliever says: "if God is so Omnipotent and full of love, why then does he allow so much suffering and death to take place?"
It was God who created the Universe, and also the natural laws. The natural law we call "gravity" can produce the death of a bird, of least value to us; the natural law according to which a growing pressure among the layers of the earth's crust results in an earthquake, and sea surge, can cause great human death and destruction, of much value to us. Both laws were created by God.
We are impressed by the violence of spectacular catastrophes, as they are not part of our routine experience. Nevertheless, daily, hundreds of thousands of people are dying over the world - of all ages, from the newly born to the older ones. Many more suffer of illnesses much more painful than a sudden drowning. So we should then ask why does God allow suffering and death of the human being? Even if all enjoyed good health and never died, except for one, would this not be a lack of love?
The answer is simple and clear, and can be found right at the beginning of the book of Genesis. God had created a perfect world, good in His sight. Suffering and death came later because of human rebellion against God. When we try to understand things from God's point of view (if this were possible), we see that there is no injustice in the death of any one of us, whatever the circumstances.
God is sovereign and it isn't possible for the human being to make any judgment with regard to His actions. Job, who God qualified as "a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil" (Job 1:8), personally suffered a catastrophe after another, losing all his possessions, his children and even remaining with a painful illness. His friends came over to accuse him of being rightfully punished by God for some hidden dreadful sins. Knowing that he was innocent of their accusations, Job lamented not being able to discuss the apparent injustice of his situation face to face with God. Finally, God called Job's attention to His supreme wisdom and Job, humiliated, was silenced before the greatness of God. He acknowledged God's sovereignty and his own total incapacity to understand things (Job 41:2-3).
We read in Luke 13:1-5 about two catastrophes when the Lord Jesus was on earth, resulting in deaths. Many might have thought that the victims were chosen to die because they were greater sinners or bore more guilt than other people, but He explained that it was not like this: whoever didn't repent would likewise perish.
Man is a being composed of body, soul and spirit. Because of his sin, the body is destined to be corrupted and die, and his souls and spirit to remain for all eternity in suffering, far from God: this is to perish as He said.
God is merciful and "long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9). He showed His love for humanity He created, now rebellious, by giving His Son to come into the world and to suffer the agony and death on the cross in order that whoever believes on Him should not die, but have eternal life. "And this is eternal life, that they may know the true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent." (John 17:3). The believer already has eternal life, and although his body may go through death, he will be resurrected with a new glorious body "on the last day" (John 6:40).
This is the great demonstration of the love of God, far superior to the simple relief of suffering and death in our ephemeral life here on earth. Eternal life is granted freely and without reserves to everyone who believes in Christ.
The earth was cursed by God because of the disobedience of man, and disease, tragedies and catastrophes are its consequence. But one day the curse will be taken away and there will be no more curse of any kind (Revelation 22:2). This is to happen in the future, in the Divine agenda. .
God does not promise deliverance from afflictions and death to his children here on earth. But of one thing we are certain: none of us will die "before his time". God gives us opportunity for service while we are here, and takes us to His home only when it suits Him.
We have heard of some remarkable cases in the episode of this last "tsunami":
Brother Peter Ferry, who for many years worked as a missionary in the regions most affected, told us that in two villages of fishermen in Thailand, where there is a church and a preaching place, the believers lost most of their possessions; but God preserved the lives of all believers known to him, even those working in the tourist resort of Phuket, in hotels and restaurants which were hard hit.
The children of a Christian orphanage on the coast of Sri Lanka, meeting for prayer on that Sunday and the adults with them, had time to shelter in a fibreglass boat which had been donated to them by a church in the UK, and escaped unharmed whilst the orphanage and all it contained were destroyed.
Two sisters, lodged in one of the hotels destroyed, had gone to a church on a hill nearby for a Sunday service, and suffered nothing.
Finally, the majority of the population in the places destroyed by the "tsunami" are Muslims, many of which are of the more radical line and have persecuted Christians savagely, to the point of killing many of them. Let us pray that the work of the Lord in these places may be strengthened, and that this catastrophe may lead some of those affected to seek the True God to obtain pardon for their sins and salvation from the wrath of God, through faith in His Son.