(Before I begin I want to address the sharp decline in blog posts. There are a number of reasons for this, but none of them are good enough to keep me from writing. For many months I had developed a good routine of regular posting, but that routine has been broken. For many weeks now I have felt the urge to write, but when it comes to the actual process I have been lazy. I always want to write. I just need to do it. Hopefully this will be the start of a new upward trend.)
When you sign a lease you may notice a section describing “acts of God”. This surprised me. It seemed odd that a legal document would attribute natural disasters to an all powerful being. Aren’t we supposed to be sensitive to those who don’t believe in a god? Shouldn’t it just read, “acts of nature”? Or what about those believers who don’t believe that God causes catastrophic events? Maybe they should be called, “acts of Satan”. Of course, then you get into the whole problem of evil debate, and there just isn’t enough room on any legal document to resolve that one.
In my brief lifetime I have seen natural disasters claim the lives of many hundreds of thousands. If you consider disease to be a natural disaster then you can increase the death toll to many millions. Natural causes end the lives of many. Very recently we saw an 8.9 magnitude earthquake devastate Japan. If what I heard is correct, it was the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history. The earth moves a little bit and all hell breaks loose. But why? Who doesn’t have that question sticking into their mind like a splinter?
Why does this happen?
One scientist gave a very reasonable answer on the news yesterday. He said that there are now 7 billion people living all over the world, and many of them live near the coast. The earth has always been shaking and stirring. With so many people living so closely together, if something happens it can’t be anything but catastrophic. Also, since we can communicate instantly all over the world we are more aware of these disasters. The global community must face the difficult reality of natural disasters. We are at the mercy of natural forces.
Another interpretation is that the world is coming to an end. Disasters of this magnitude happen as a precursor to the end of days where God will pour out His wrath on humanity. Many will use this recent event as evidence for Armageddon. It happened because God is angry and it’s just going to get worse.
Some try to find blame when something like this happens. Innocent people aren’t killed arbitrarily. That doesn’t make sense. They must have done something to bring it upon themselves. When something so chaotic and disturbing occurs, maybe we turn to justice or karma as a source of comfort. Bad things happen to bad people. There is some force keeping tabs, and making the world a fair place to live.
For the one who believes in the goodness and sovereignty of God, these disasters pose a challenge to faith. God can prevent these things. So why would he allow them?
The answers aren’t easy, and sometimes we can’t know them. But when faced with the undeniable reality of massive suffering I am reminded of the Son of God.
Life isn’t fair. The sinless man was scourged by sin.
Life is painful. God was whipped, mocked, and nailed hands and feet to a cross.
God is good. He endured all of it in order to save us.
The cross is at once a reminder that life is painful and unfair, but also that God is more loving and good than we would dare to imagine. It isn’t an easy answer, but how could it be in a world like this?