By Jason Lovelace
Luke 13.2-4 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the Tower of Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
We all remember the most recent international disasters:
• Terrorist Attacks – Major Attacks starting September 11, 2001 – Terrorist Attackers on four jets crash into the World Trade Center Towers and Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people. Terrorists attack areas in the Pacific, Europe, and Australia, killing hundreds more, leading up to 2007.
• Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunamis – December 26th, 2004 – A powerful, 9.0 level Earthquake shakes up Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia, killing thousands, but sets off a series of devastating tsunamis which kill or displace hundreds of thousands more throughout the Indian Ocean. The damage toll is so high, it cannot be calculated accurately.
• Super Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Cyclones – Summer/Autumn, 2005 – The Gulf Coast of the United States, particularly Louisiana and Mississippi, are hit hard by two super, Category 5 Hurricanes – Katrina and Rita – killing thousands and running damage estimates in three US States into the billions of dollars. Similarly, some super typhoons and cyclones, all resulting hit Japan and Australia in death and destruction.
Why do disasters – man-made and otherwise – strike? Why do people who are at peace with their neighbors, in love with life, and doing nothing other than just living their daily lives, get stricken with tragedy and hard times? Is God involved directly, indirectly, or is he just watching? Why do terrible events happen in our world today?
Point #1 – Tragedy and Disaster Happen because of Man’s Sinful, Fallen State: The first and greatest reason that disaster happens is because of the fallen, sinful nature into which man willfully entered into at the Garden of Eden. There are many, many nay-sayers out there who will totally write-off, laugh off, and discredit anything the Bible has to say, but the truth of the matter is, disaster happens precisely because man rejected God from the very beginning. In fact, the first recorded planetary calamity in the Bible – The Great Flood – came after people on the earth had grown so wretchedly sinful. Genesis Chapter 6 states that God saw how wicked the earth had become at that time, and decided to send forth the waters of the flood. So great was the sin and evil of the world, that only Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives, found grace with God (Genesis 6.8), and only they were saved in the Ark when the waters were poured out. This trend of disasters happening continued down through history, and still continues today. The bottom line is, disaster happens because Adam and Eve – the human race’s ancestors – rejected God, passing sin down through the generations to us today. Up until Genesis 7, some 1500 years following the fall of man, there were no disasters recorded on earth. This is because prior to sin being allowed to enter, the world and universe were perfect.
Point #2 – Disasters Happen to Get Peoples’ Attention: Crazy as this sounds, God allows disasters to happen to get the attention of the people of the world. There are three objectives in this: First, God allows disaster so that unbelievers and rejecters of Him will look to him in repentance and faith. God loves everyone on the face of the earth. He will do everything he can to get those who reject him to turn to him in faith, love, and obedient repentance. Again, this may sound crazy, but taking a look at the Bible, God allowed disaster to strike time and time again so that non-believers would turn to him, love him, accept him, and follow him. Many times, it happened that the people who experienced disaster did, in fact, turn to him. Some, as in the case of the people of Nineveh, as recorded in the Book of Jonah, turned to God before disaster struck. God will use any means he deems and sees fit to turn peoples’ eyes back on him.
Second, God uses Disaster to Get His Followers’ Attention Back on Him. Again, God often allows disaster, tragedy, and hard times to get the attention of his followers. This is clearly seen in God’s persistence with the Israelites. Time and time again, the people of Israel in the Old Testament – God’s chosen people at that time – turned away from him, turned their backs on him, and walked away. Time and time again, God used disasters – man-made and natural – to turn his people back to him. The Books of Joshua through Esther – The Biblical Historical Books – tell time and time and time again where the Israelites turned away from God, became prideful, and/or openly sinned against him, and each and every time, God used a disaster to regain his people’s attention. Third, God Uses Tragedy and Disaster to Test, Try, and Strengthen His People. The Bible, again, has multiple instances where this has been the case, but the most outstanding is in the person of Job. Job was a very wealthy, very Godly man living in the time of the patriarchs. In the Book of Job, it is told how God allowed the devil to literally strip Job of everything he owned, killed off his family, and left Job with terrible health (Job 1–2). Even when Job’s three closest friends heard about his calamity, and came to offer Job help and support, they ended up criticizing Job and nearly turning against him totally. Yet, in spite of this testing, Job remained faithful to God, even going so far as stating…
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him… – Job 13.15
This faith that Job had in God later turned to him for the good, and he received twice as much from God as he had before, and was given his family again. God often uses calamity, trial, disaster, and tribulation to strengthen and test his people.
Point #3 – Jesus stated that Disasters Are the Signs of His Return: In Matthew 24, Jesus’ disciples asked him when the sign of his coming and the end of the world would be. Jesus responded as follows:
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places…the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken… – Matthew 24.6-7,29 (See also: Mark 13.7-8,24-25, Luke 21.9-11,25-26)
Clearly, Jesus tells his followers in the Bible that one of the signs of his soon coming is the occurrence of disasters, both natural and man-made. In another part of the Gospels, Jesus likens the frequency and coming of such disasters as labor pains for the birth of a baby. Is it not easy to see that the super typhoons/hurricanes/cyclones, the mega-earthquakes and tsunamis, the surge criminal/terrorist violence, and the words of many of the world’s leaders threatening war and destruction are now happening at an ever-increasing pace? Jesus speaks clearly about this time, and warns that the devastating events are road signs for his coming return.
Point #4 – God’s Judgment(s) is (are) Radically Different from What We are Seeing Today: After the Terrorist Attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the United States, many Christian leaders spoke up and stated that it was God’s Judgment falling on the United States. Many have also said similar things with regards to the Terrorist Attacks since, and the Sumatra Earthquake/Tsunamis of 2004, and the Super Hurricanes that leveled much of the Gulf Coast in 2005. However, when one reads the Bible, it becomes clear that God getting the attention of his people, and God passing and executing sentence on a nation are totally different. God’s judgment on people usually comes with a specific warning beforehand – quite often many, many years before the actual judgment falls. Case in point is the Great Flood of Genesis 7. Noah spent 120 years building the Ark, warning any who would stop and listen of the pending, watery judgment to come (II Peter 2.5). Another case would be the Prophet Jeremiah, who continually warned the Israeli Southern Kingdom of Judah of the impending judgment by God at the hands of the Babylonian Army under King Nebuchadnezzar II. Still another is the case of the angels coming to warn Lot of the coming, specified, fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. These judgments are just but a few examples of God pronouncing the sentence to the people before execution is carried out. In the cases we have mentioned before, there was no specified, peculiar warning – not about the terrorist attacks that have rocked the world, neither about the earthquakes and typhoons/hurricanes/cyclones that have shattered cities and towns. The reason for this is that the before-mentioned disasters are signs, not judgments. Judgments come with specified warnings, and the reason for this is because people will know and understand that God is doing the speaking, and that it is clear that God is the one carrying out sentence and judgment.
Conclusion – God allows disasters, tragedies, and hard times for our own good: Whether we are Christian Followers of Jesus Christ or not, God uses disasters to get our attention, to get our eyes back on him. Is there something going on in your life right now? Are you going through a hard time, through a disaster, a tragedy, or a catastrophic event? Maybe you have gotten your attention away from God, and he is trying to speak to you, to get you to open up your ears and your heart to him. We humans can be very stubborn very hard-hearted, very hard-headed when it comes to God. If you are going through a hard time, remember that God isn’t allowing it so you will be destroyed – he is allowing it so that you will turn to him and listen to him. To the unbeliever, you need to know that God will do everything he can to get your attention, to get you to turn to him. He loves you and wants to spend eternity with you. That is why Jesus Christ came and died on the cross. The more you, as an unbeliever reject him, the more God will try to get your heart to open up to him. There will come a point where your heart will be so hardened that you cannot hear the voice of God, but when that time is not known. The best thing is to turn to him while there is time, while his call is recognized on your heart. God does not want disaster to happen to you to turn you to him, but if you hold out that long, unbeliever, he will allow it to happen. Do not wait until it is too late, and do not wait until a disaster is necessary before you turn to him. To the Christian believer, brother or sister, that hard time you are going through right now is a test from God. He wants your eyes, your trust, and your hope placed in him too, just as he did before you asked Jesus into your heart. Trust in him and know that this will soon pass, just as he promised, and that he is with you all of the way.
Prayer: Father, help us, we pray, to recognize you in the midst of the trials of life, the tragedies of this existence, the disasters that come, and the hard times that we go through. We pray that those who read these words will understand you better, and know that you love us, and want us in your Eternal Kingdom. Give the unbeliever who reads these words help from your Holy Spirit, and help them to make the choice to come to you by way of your Son, Jesus Christ, in Whose Name we pray, amen.