Disaster strikes and God seems silent: 3 options

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“We’re going to find our island destroyed.” That’s how an official in Puerto Rico describes the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Meanwhile, the death toll from Tuesday’s earthquake in Mexico has climbed to at least 237 as of this morning.

The Bible claims that God “rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). Where is he in Puerto Rico and Mexico today?

Natural disasters are a consequence of the Fall (Romans 8:22). But God sometimes intervenes to calm the storm (Matthew 8:23–27) or stop the flood (Joshua 3:14–17). When he doesn’t, we are left to ask why.

And when no explanation seems forthcoming, we are left to wonder if God is who we think he is. Perhaps he doesn’t truly love us or have the power to help us. It’s only natural to ask such questions when natural disasters strike.

Consider three options.

One: God has spoken, but we don’t want to hear what he says.

The Lord warned Pharaoh before the plagues (cf. Exodus 7:1–7); Jesus warned Jerusalem before it was destroyed (Matthew 24:1–2). However, I’m not aware of any prophetic warnings before the earthquake in Mexico or the hurricanes that have devastated the Caribbean.

Two: He will not answer questions asked in pride.

When Job charged God with wrongdoing, the Lord responded: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). Rather than explain himself, God revealed Job’s fallenness and finitude to him. And Job responded in repentance (Job 42:1–6).

C. S. Lewis: “The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock [the witness stand]. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.”

However, our Father will not honor or promote such pride. If we demand answers from the Sovereign of the universe, we may be waiting a very long time.

Three: God cannot explain what we cannot understand.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8). A doctor cannot explain surgery to a preschooler. There are times when our Father would explain why he permits suffering, but we would not understand his revelation.

Here’s what I know: after we ask our questions, God wants us to be part of the answer. Survivors of Hurricane Maria and the Mexico earthquake desperately need our intercession and financial support. Those working to rebuild Houston and Florida need our ongoing help.

Dwight Moody: “The preaching that this world needs most is the sermons in shoes that are walking with Jesus Christ.” What sermon will you preach today?

NOTE: While our attention is focused on devastation caused by Maria and the Mexico earthquake, relief efforts are ongoing in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma. One ministry that is especially important to me is working in Cuba to rebuild homes and lives. I have traveled to Cuba nine times and pray daily for my sisters and brothers there. To learn more about their work, I invite you to click here.