Answering The Face Of Disaster


Wave heights from the Japan tsunami.

The world is pretty shaken up right now. We had the quake here in New Zealand last month and now this massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, with the threat on nuclear meltdown.

As Christians who are serious about the Bible, we know God is in control. When bad things happen, we know they are still inside of His plans.

We also know that while these tragedies and the loss of material things seems earth shattering, there is a much bigger problem… living in sin against God. While this seems like a lot of suffering, it’s much worse to be in rebellion against God.

How Do You Answer?

Through the earthquakes, I’ve seen the word ‘pray’ on the news and in comments more than ever. People (especially in this agnostic country) are a little more mindful of spiritual things. I saw several people asking how religious people view these events.

So here’s the question, how do you answer when people ask you, “why did God let it happen?” (Or even make it happen.) They could be talking about the quakes or any number of disasters.

It’s easy to talk about this to serious believers. But what I might say to you, could so easily sound inappropriate or even callous to a pagan.

How would you answer the question for a) an unbeliever and b) a weak or nominal Christian? Tackle just one, or both together…

5 thoughts on “Answering The Face Of Disaster”

  1. From what I have studied so far, the only way to convince people of why these events happen is for them to understand sin and how it entered the earth. Many people believe that man is inherently good and the only people who are considered “bad” people are criminals, rapists, murders etc. — We know that man is born straight into sin, and without Jesus Christ is worthy of death. (Romans 6:23)

    Once they understand sin, and what the effects of sin are, the next logical question they might ask is this: “If sin is so bad, and God created everything, then why did God create it?” — They then must understand that God is perfect and could not create something such as sin. Sin has existed as long as God has. God still allows sin to reign on this earth and events to happen (like the Tsunami in Japan) in order to complete his plan and to continue to show the effects of sin and man’s decision to rebel against God.

    Again, this is a really tough question to answer and I’m sure my answer is far from perfect. I hope to study this some more and appreciate you posting this Luke. I would be very interested in hearing what you have to say about this subject 🙂 Thanks again!

  2. Excellent point, Robert.

    I think bringing the issue back to sin is crucial. Sin is the catalyst for all suffering.

    Again, I think it’s easy for us to talk about it. How do we start explaining it to the unsaved in the context of a big disaster?

  3. I think its important to realise (as we all know!) that what we want people to understand is different from how we go about doing it. Obviously in the end we want people to know the nature of sin, and God’s nature of sovereignty, wisdom, love, justice, holiness, and wrath. But launching straight into a discussion about God’s wrath against sin, might (in some contexts) come close to committing the error of Job’s friends. They had a whole heap of stuff right (theologically – compare their speeches to some of the Psalms), but their application was wrong in the context of Job’s story. There’s so many complexities to people’s individual situations, and the topic is so emotionally charged – I’m keen to hear what God has taught all you guys about the practicalities of this!

    Sometimes a person’s heart is not open to hear truth (for a variety of reasons, including strong emotion) – in which case, no matter how appropriate our answers, they won’t be accepted. We would need to align ourselves FIRST with the Holy Spirit’s call to hear. For this reason, sometimes its best to be relatively quiet and just be there for people and let them see the character of God through our imitation of Christ, and through our attitudes and actions that spring from a deep relational knowledge of Him.

    I like what one pastor said about this topic. He referred to the only time where Jesus answered a similar question (Luke 13:1-5). How did Jesus answer? He deliberately placed all of humanity in the same boat, turned the focus AWAY from the event, and onto the specific context of those asking the question. Don’t ask ‘why?’ about the event – ask ‘why?’ about our own situation. Why have we been shown grace to continue living? For unbelievers, maybe God calling them to Himself?
    I have found from (limited!) experience, that a question like this opens the grounds for a discussion about everything we want to talk about, but with a more positive focus, a more inquisitive person (lets face it, it is a bit strange to answer the question this way), and a more receptive ear.

    I think ‘mature’ Christians are more difficult to talk with, if they are set in the mindset that God is NOT in control of these events. Maybe the best way (again) is to try and get them to hear, before specifically answering the question. Just talking enough to gently answer any accusations and concerns (which might be profuse enough to keep a conversation going!), and to convince them that we can trust in a sovereign God who allows suffering for His own glory – AND believe in God’s immense love at the same time. When someone is ready to hear we can humbly begin discussing with a more ‘knowledge imparting’ aim (by the Holy Spirit).

  4. Thanks, Josh. That’s a really good point about Job’s friends. It does scare me how much good theology they had, and how big a telling off they got from God!

    One of the most challenging verses to me, is “speak the truth in love.” That definitely applies here.

    It’s a good reminder to be sensitive to the situation and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

    We also don’t want to miss a chance to speak truth when someone is inquiring.

    Still keen to hear more answers and views…

  5. This is a good topic to discuss in light of what seems to be an increasing frequency of disasters (both natural and man made).

    You guys make some good points above. Yeah Luke, “speaking the truth in love” is important i.e. don’t hammer a person etc. It is however, easy (for me at least) to become chicken-hearted the opportunity slip by and not use such topics as an entry to discussing eternal issues.

    I agree that it is mankind’s incorrect view of himself that leads to him ask why bad things happen, and not why does anything good happen to us?

    The challenge is in altering this “view” to be aligned to a biblical view.

    I certainly think it is misguided/unbiblical to suggest that God was powerless and that it happened by mistake, or to infer what happens in nature is somehow disconnected from what God decrees. This idea is promoted in some “Christian” circles.

    May we be faithful in accurately representing what is taught in the Bible.

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