God, Suffering and Natural Disasters

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God, Suffering and Natural Disasters

27 April 2017 Hits:5367

The most frequently asked question about the Christian faith goes something like this: “If God is real why do we see so much suffering and evil in the world?”  It’s a fair question and one that deserves some good answers.  I mean if God is really that powerful, really sovereign, really in control then why doesn’t He do something about the pain and suffering of people?

It needs to be realised that people cause the vast majority of suffering on planet Earth.  God took a risk and gave humans freewill.  We have the ability to make choices.  Some people choose well, others don’t.  The bad choices some people make invariably impact on others causing pain and suffering.

Ultimately God is sovereign and He is moving history in the right direction.  His plan will eventually be fulfilled and His goodness will cover the earth.  But in the meantime we are not exempt from the pain that is inflicted when people do the wrong thing or good people do nothing.  When it comes to the day-to-day happenings in this world it should be noted, “God is in charge but not in control.”  In fact He has delegated the control of this world to people.

Right at the beginning of time He gave the responsibility of governing and controlling creation to human beings (Genesis 1:28).  So are we doing a good job?  Sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no.”  For example, Bono writes, “Extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years, and the facts show that we can get it to virtually zero within a generation – but only if we act.”  That’s right, good people taking charge can end poverty in the next few decades.  So instead of blaming God for suffering what are YOU doing to make a difference?  The same can be said about other major issues of caring for the earth and its people: reducing pollution, caring for the environment, conservation, praying and work for peace and justice amongst people and nations, economic justice and equality between rich and poor, male and female; racial equality for people of marginalised races; protection for refugees and asylum seekers and so on.

These are not merely political issues, they are deeply important matters that should concern all of us who pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven – for those of us who want to see things continue to improve on this planet as they have done for centuries.  That’s right, the world is actually becoming a better place, and if you don’t believe me then read history!

All of the above still doesn’t account for the suffering that is NOT caused by people.  For example, what about natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, bush fires, volcanoes, tsunamis, avalanches and extreme weather events?  While I don’t pretend to have all the answers to these complex scientific occurrences, there’s one thing I’d like to put forward about such phenomena, that is, “every blessing has a shadow side”.  What I mean by that is the very things we enjoy on this planet also have the ability to harm us.

I love trees.  I appreciate their colour against a blue sky; I love their shade on warm days; and I breathe the oxygen they create.  Trees play a role in the formation of rain and wind.  Strong winds can cause large tree limbs to break.  Sometimes these fall on people and cause injury and death.

Earthquakes are caused when tectonic plates move.  If the earth were solid, rather than being made up of plates that move, life, as we know it could never have survived.  Earthquakes and volcanoes have been responsible for creating countries (such as Japan) and the stunning mountain ranges we enjoy.  People can ski on many of these mountains.  Sometimes avalanches happen causing injury and death.  Some people love climbing mountains.  Occasionally they die trying.

Volcanoes occur when magma erupts through a weakness in the earth’s crust (invariably as a result of an earthquake).  Volcanoes wouldn’t happen if the earth were cooler.  But if this were the case the cooling would remove the magnetic shield around earth that protects the planet from cosmic radiation.  The result would be out of control global warming, an increase in solar rays that are believed to cause cancer, and extensive solar winds that could dry out rivers, lakes and seas.  There goes your fishing, boating and surfing.

Floods cause havoc.  They destroy homes, livestock and people’s lives. They also create an explosion of new plant and animal life, rejuvenate river systems, fill dams to give us an abundant supply of fresh water, give agricultural land a complete soaking to prepare it for bumper crops, recharge groundwater systems, fill wetlands and increase fish production because of nutrients supplied by the land during flooding.  Likewise bushfires, as devastating as they are to human and animal life, are also necessary for the rejuvenation of vegetation.  In fact some plants actually need heat and smoke to release their seeds.

The gravity that keeps us on the planet also enables fatal falls; the fire that warms also burns; the water in which we swim can also drown.

Tragedies happen and the suffering of people should never be downplayed.  These are opportunities for humanity to come together, to help one another, to be our best selves.  A wonderful example of this was the devastating 2004 Asian Tsunami that claimed up to 280,000 lives.  It prompted a worldwide humanitarian response in which a number of countries gave more than $18 billion in aid and helped in rebuilding the worst effected nations.

Finally, if God were to remove all evil from the world where would He start and finish?  Should He just get rid of the big-ticket bad guys like Isis and Al-Qaida?  Or should he also deal with people who speed and cause accidents?  Have you ever exceeded the speed limit?  Should He get rid of you?

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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8 replies on “God, Suffering and Natural Disasters”

David Milessays:

Hi Rob, great effort here to grapple with this complex subject and yet convey the reality of the love of God towards all of his creation.
If he has made us ‘sovereigns’ as in ‘Adam & Eve’s’ inheritors of all they were given, wouldn’t he then also make his sovereign tools available for us to seize control of all that harms? I’d be keen to discuss further.. GB.

Rob Buckinghamsays:

Thanks for your encouraging comments David. I didn’t say that people were sovereign but rather that God has delegated “the responsibility of governing and controlling creation to human beings.” I stated, “Ultimately God is sovereign and He is moving history in the right direction. His plan will eventually be fulfilled and His goodness will cover the earth.”

David Milessays:

Thanks Rob, perhaps ‘off-line’ discussion is good?
I think the church has truely forgotten the mission God gave Adam & Eve. We’ve settled for an almost Lucifarian – ‘Devil is god-of-this-world’ (hence war-famine-disaster) but of-course God ultimately controls the universe. When the mandate, authority and mission (even as fully demonstrated in Christ) is one of an absolute dominion. Am I wrong? Christ demonstrated this after all, then also rebuked the disciples for unbelief. (Eg, of weather was included I think.) I’m not trying to be smart here, I have some understanding about the weather aspect, see proposed system for mitigating threat for storms, drought etc. here:
http://milesresearch.co
We also demonstrated to United Nations here: http://milesresearch.co/page11/page12/
Also I have some revelation re mission of sons of God (sons and daughters). We have the challenge of the ages upon us really..! God bless, David

Steve Wilsonsays:

There is some helpful material here, but I believe your basic point about God not being in control is biblically wrong. God is always in control. As unpleasant as it might seem, God sends disaster – Amos 3:6. And it’s something we see throughout scripture. Man has responsibility for managing the planet, but he has no control over it. He can stop the war that causes the famine, but he can’t make it rain and end the drought. God is in control. God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). It is only because of God that rulers – good and bad- stand (Romans 13:1). If God is not in control, what is the use of prayer? If God is not in control, what hope do we have?

Rob Buckinghamsays:

We’ll agree to disagree Steve. If God is in total control of this planet then there is every reason for people (especially those who don’t believe) to point their fingers at Him and state that He’s not doing a very good job! This is the most-often made accusation against the Christian faith and is, in my opinion, an unnecessary accusation if we get our New Testament theology correct. Amos 3:6 is in context of a prophecy directed towards the nation of Israel. He dealt with Israel, under the Old Covenant, in a very different way than His dealings with any other nation.

Steve Wilsonsays:

Thanks for the reply and, yes, I fear we will remain apart on this issue. I appreciate the context of the Amos passage, but I contend the fact remains – God is always in control, even to the point of sending disaster. I would argue the breadth of scripture supports that. But I don’t think that will cause you to change your position any more than your argument will change mine! However, I would suggest that taking a theological position (whether it be on suffering, or anything else) should be driven by scripture. It may just be because it is a blog comment, and you might not have outlined in total a scriptural basis for your position, but it seems from your reply that you want to take this position because it helps counter arguments put by the rest of the world. I may have misinterpreted your writing on that and, if so, please forgive me. There are several Christian teachings that might be easier to hold to and explain to the world if they were different (the only way to God is through Jesus, whether homosexuality is wrong, good works don’t save you, etc), but God’s inspired word remains profitable for teaching and reproof, no matter how distasteful it might appear to the world, or counter-culture it can appear to us.

Mattsays:

5I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
6so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things. Isaiah 45

The Lord is always in control but that is not the same thing as morally culpible. We (mankind) took that culpability at the fall and each time we are bitter, speed or even over-eat.

Even though Rob offers well intended reasoning about God not being in control so as to give Him a moral excuse, its not only unnecesary & wrong but undermines his last point which is spot on. God is eternally just. Love requires justice, and a god who doesnt control ecverything is no god at all let alone a loving and just God.

The peoblem with.our sinful hearts is that we ALWAYS want God to deal with the wickedness and injustice “out there” totally ignoreing that our own sin qod have to be dealt with at the same time too. Outside of Christ? Well that means speninding an eternity in judgement -not going to win popularity contests here!

Roger Steelesays:

Hi Dave,
Where did you get your knowledge of scripture and God? I thought you were the weather man

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