Someone asked me a few days ago, “Where is God in the midst of all the suffering from the bushfires currently ravaging Australia?” It’s a good question and reflects the most frequently asked question about the Christian faith, which goes something like this: “If God is real, why do we see so much suffering and evil in the world?” 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? There are several things to be said in answer to this question.

Suffering Caused by Humans

Firstly, it needs to be realised that people cause the vast majority of suffering on planet Earth. We have the free will to make choices. Some people choose well, others don’t. The poor decisions some people make invariably impact others, causing pain and suffering. So far this bushfire season, 24 people have been charged for arson although most of the fires were not deliberately started.

In past studies, criminologists have estimated that 85% of wildfires are caused by humans, with the remaining 15% of fires usually the result of lightning strikes. Human causes of bushfires include arson, along with non-malicious activities. Negligent behaviour of leaving a campfire smouldering, dropped cigarettes and matches, arcing from overhead powerlines, accidental ignition in the course of agricultural clearing, grinding and welding activities, sparks from machinery, and controlled burn escapes are all causes of bushfires.

Climate change is also a contributing factor. Australia’s climate has warmed by more than one degree Celsius over the past century, causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and droughts which dry out the undergrowth and create conditions that increase the risk of bushfires. In turn, the bushfires release a massive amount of carbon dioxide, which raise Australia’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating the problems associated with global warming.

At the beginning of time, God 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.”

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, we can all make this world a better place.

The same can be said about other significant 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 significant matters that should concern all of us who pray for God’s kingdom to come, his will to be done on Earth as it is in heaven.

Suffering Caused by Natural Elements

But this still doesn’t account for the suffering that is NOT caused by people. What about natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, tsunamis, avalanches, extreme weather events, and 15% of bushfires that are not the fault of humans. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers to these complex scientific occurrences, it should be noted that the very things we enjoy on this planet can also harm us.

I love the 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). Eruptions wouldn’t happen if the Earth were colder. 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 cancer-causing solar rays, and extensive solar winds that would 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. Floods rejuvenate river systems, fill dams, soak agricultural land to prepare it for bumper crops, recharge groundwater systems, fill wetlands, and increase fish production because of nutrients supplied by the land during flooding. 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 even drown.

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.

So, where is God in the bushfire’s crisis? God is actually right in the midst of suffering, hurting people. There’s a video doing the rounds on social media at present highlighting people who are praying. One lady said, “I don’t pray to the Lord very often but yesterday I never prayed so hard in all my life.” A guy said, “The sirens started up and at that point I was praying – and I was an atheist for 25 years.” Where was God? Right there!

Tragedies happen, and the suffering of people should never be downplayed. During this current crisis, we have an incredible opportunity to come together, to help one another, to be our best selves. Now is not the time for criticism and protests. We’ll have plenty of time to review what could have and should have been done once this crisis is over. Right now, let’s help those in need.

If you’d like to help, you can give a Tax-Deductible donation to the Bayside Foundation. Please specify your gift for “Bushfire Relief”.



It’s a fact of modern life that the major issues we face often get hijacked by politics.  Just the mention of refugees, climate change, Aboriginal recognition and the like instantly polarise our minds either to the Left or the Right.  We see these and other issues through the lens of our political persuasion and then act, or don’t act, accordingly.  But this is not the way Christian people should respond.  The lens we are to look through is the life and teachings of Jesus rather than any political ideology.

Let’s take the environment as an example. If I talk about loving and caring for planet earth, I get labelled a greenie – a person who campaigns for the protection of the environment.  For some in the Christian world, being a greenie is seen as a negative thing.  Climate change is viewed as a modern conspiracy and anyone passionate about looking after planet earth is not concentrating on the essential stuff on which Christians should be focusing. I disagree.

In Mark 16, Jesus taught his followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  The Greek word for creation is ktisis which refers to the “act or product of creation” [1] in which God made the universe, the Earth and all things (animate and inanimate) out of nothing (Lat. ex nihilo).  Much of modern Christianity has viewed the gospel as a message aimed at saving people from their sins.  As vitally important as this is, the gospel is a far broader and grander message.  Its relevance is for all creation, everything that God made; all of nature and everything he gave people dominion over. [2]

When God gave human beings dominion he gave us the burden of responsibility to look after his creation.  Many years ago, when Christie and I were heading away for a few weeks, some friends asked if they could look after our house while we were gone.  As they didn’t have their own home, we decided to bless them with our home and give them the responsibility of caring for it.  Sadly, they didn’t do a good job.  They invited people around for a party; they left rubbish everywhere and so we didn’t give them another chance to look after our home because they’d not lived up to the responsibility we had entrusted to them.

The same goes for Planet Earth; the home God has given us the charge to look after.  The expression of the gospel for all creation means that our faith in Jesus will motivate us to reduce our footprint on the earth – to lessen harmful emissions, to recycle as much rubbish as possible, to conserve precious resources, to look after the wonders of nature and to protect endangered species. On that last point, it was recently revealed that Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world.  “At least 30 native mammals have become extinct since European settlement — 14 in just the past 50 years” [3] – animals God created that no longer exist.

I understand that caring for the environment makes some Christians nervous because they’re concerned they may become guilty of worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator. [4] Others have a theology that teaches one day God will make a new Earth so why should we bother to look after this one?  While I certainly embrace the hope of new heavens and a new earth, it’s faulty logic that leads to an uncaring attitude towards the current creation. If you have an old car but hope to buy a new one in the future, you wouldn’t trash the old one now because it’s the only one you have.  You need to look after it and make it last as long as possible.  It’s the same with our care for the planet.

All people on Earth have a God-given responsibility to care for it, maintain it and repair it.  It’s not about being a greenie; it’s about loving God and his creation and allowing our passion for the gospel to influence every part of our lives.


[1] Strong’s concordance

[2] (Genesis 1:26, 28)

[3] Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife boss Ian Darbyshire

[4] Romans 1:25


“I care for the environment – as long as it doesn’t cost me anything.”  That seems to just about sum up what many Aussies currently feel about environmental care. 

According to Market researcher Australia Scan, Australians are becoming increasingly disinterested in the environment.  This is for a number of reasons including the seemingly endless debate over emissions trading, and the impact of the Black Saturday bushfires that resulted largely from a failure to systematically back burn large areas of bush land – because trees are more important than people!

There is another reason though.  You see it’s easy to sit back in our nice comfortable lounges in front of our big screen TVs and wax eloquent on how much we care for the environment.  But we love our way of life and we don’t want it to change so, when the rubber hits the road, we want change as long as it doesn’t affect us.

This was born out recently when it was suggested that we could all pay a $50 annual garbage tax that would go towards more effective handling of recyclable rubbish.  A Herald Sun poll asked the question, “Would you be happy to pay a $50 garbage tax?”  The poll result: 8.9% YES and 91.1% NO.  Why?  Simply we’re not happy to put our money where our mouth is.

We want to seem like we care.  We want to seem like we’re doing something, but please don’t let it cost us, please don’t let it impact on the way we live our lives – at least for not more than one hour.

That’s what many people did again recently with Earth Hour, in which they turned off lights and other power-gobbling machines for 60 minutes.  Funny that this was done the night before the Grand Prix.  I bet the environment was fuming!  It’s all about seeming rather than doing.  We’re happy to do for one hour what we’re not prepared to do for the remaing 8,759 hours in the year.

God’s job to us

And yet care for the environment was amongst God’s first jobs for the human race: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).  Now of course there’s always the danger of worshipping the creation rather than the creator, and I’m also aware that at some point in the future God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth, but neither of these things are reasons to do nothing now to care for the first earth.

How to make a difference

So, what are some of the things we can practically do to make a difference to the environment?  Try these …

  • When your hot water service quits on you, consider purchasing a solar hot water system.
  • Purchase a nice looking water bottle and refill it with filtered water, rather than purchasing bottled water.
  • In summer use a fan as much as possible instead of air conditioning. Fans only use between 20 – 50 watts as opposed to 2000 watts for air conditioners. Or turn down your air-conditioning by 1 degree in winter and up by 1 degree in summer to reduce energy consumption by 15%.
  • Don’t buy cleaning products sold in flammable spray cans. Spray cans emit damaging greenhouse gases in to the atmosphere, and a dangerous cocktail of chemicals into the air.
  • Don’t let your taps run. If you allow the water to run for three minutes while you clean your teeth, wash your face or scrub your hands, approximately 15 litres of water goes down the sink.
  • Find more great ideas on caring for the environment click here

The Bible teaches, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”  In other words, if we really believe something then doing will follow our belief.  Do, do you believe that God created the world and asked us to care for it?  Do you believe that people have done great damage to God’s world?  Do you believe that you can do something to make a difference?  If your answer is “yes” then get to work!