Natural Catastrophes Occur, Where is God?
December 26, 2004 South East Asia was
overwhelmed by a tsunami of great proportions such as has not been seen in
centuries. The result was a catastrophe that led to hundreds of thousands
killed and a great many injured. The damages to several nations are
Many have understandably asked: "Where
was God when this happened? If He is a loving God, why did He not
intervene?" Atheists gleefully answer such a question with their well-known
pat answer: "God did not intervene, because there is no God!"
Theologians from various religions
have offered various, contradictory explanations. The following is this
author's explanation based on scriptural indications. It proposes that God
exists, that He knew about the tsunami in advance, that He was aware of its
destructive power, but that He did not intervene because humanity from the
very beginning has invited Him to stay out of its affairs -- and He has
Before analyzing this topic, it is
critical that certain foundational aspects relating to God’s nature be
established. They are critical pillars in this article's discussion of God’s
fairness and justice in relation to any and all catastrophe. They are as
The first pillar on which this article
builds is the belief that God exists, and that He is totally sovereign over
nature and over humanity.
The second pillar is the belief that
the Judeo-Christian God is the only God, and that there are no other gods.
He, in fact, asserts the following: "I am He, I am the first, I also the
last" (Isaiah 48:12), and "Besides me there is no God" (Isaiah 44:6).
The third pillar is that God is
"omniscient," that is all knowing. Therefore, God knew in advance about the
terrible earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and its catastrophic consequences.
The fourth pillar is that God is
"omnipotent." We read in the Old Testament that " In YAH, the Lord, is
everlasting strength" (Isaiah 26:4). The New Testament, likewise,
testifies to this through Christ Himself: "For with God nothing will be
impossible" (Luke 1:37). Thus, if God wanted to He could have
prevented the earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and the catastrophes that
The fifth pillar is that God is
"holiness," that is righteousness. God is holy, and He demands holiness. In
the Book of Deuteronomy we are told that He is "...a God of truth and
without injustice" (Deuteronomy 32). Christ had no doubt about this
great truth and referred to God the Father as "Righteous Father" (John
The last pillar is that God is "Love."
That is, God is always motivated by love, and only love. Therefore, whatever
He has done, and whatever He has not done, must be framed by love.
The Bible assures us that God is love (I John 4:8,16); that He is a
God who delights in loving kindness (Jeremiah 9:24); and who is "abundant in
mercy" (Psalm 86:5). Everything about His essence is goodness and
other-centeredness, and no selfishness can be found in Him.
Let’s summarize these critical
fundamentals: God exists and He is supreme over all creation; being
Omniscient, He knew that the horrific earthquake would strike that part of
the world, and that it would lead to a catastrophic tsunami; He also knew
that the tsunami would hit the coasts of various nations, and that the
consequences would have been disastrous; yet He chose not to, in spite of
the fact that He is omnipotent and could have intervened. God is
righteousness and love and these factors must be somehow be present in His
actions or lack thereof.
Why did God not intervene, then?
The first key factor that the author
would like to propose is that God, "by-and- large," is not involved in the
matters of this world, and that most of humanity, in fact, is in the hands
of another god: Satan.
The Bible is quite explicit about this
reality. Jesus confirms this fundamental truth, by calling Satan "The prince
of this world’" (John 14:30 and 16:11). The Apostle Paul refers to Satan as
"The prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of
disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). Most meaningfully, Paul also refers to Satan
as "the god of this world."(I Cor. 4:4).
At present, therefore, Satan is the
Ruler of this world—not the Almighty. Humanity has adopted Satan as
its god and offers worship to him through their evil thoughts and actions.
The philosophy of this world is one of disobedience and rebellion towards
God’s laws. Our conscience testifies to right and wrong, even if we have no
knowledge of the true God, and humanity, by-and- large, is choosing to do
what is wrong and evil. This choice places humanity into Satan’s camp --
and God has been invited out
HOLINESS AND JUSTICE
From the beginning of the Bible to the
end, God manifests Himself as a Being who greatly values holiness and
justice. Since the Garden of Eden, He has chosen to teach His human children
His way, but does not force His way upon them. In the
Garden of Eden, we see this philosophy revealed in God’s approach toward
Adam and Eve. He told the first two humans not to eat of the Tree of the
Knowledge of Good and Evil, that represented self-sufficiency and rebellion
to God’s will, and then He left. Interestingly enough, He allowed
Satan to present his deceitful side and did not intervene.
Adam and Eve chose the path to
rebellion with the consequence being toil, suffering and finally death.
Humanity has also chosen Satan’s way
ever since, thus reaping the same fruits. These are the daily rewards
Satan showers his worshippers with, worldwide.
God, in the meantime, has obliged to
the manifest wish of humanity; He has pulled away from the affairs of this
world and has abandoned humanity to its own devices. Paul describes
rebellious humanity in these terms:
…although they knew God, they did not
glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their
thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened…Therefore God gave them up
to uncleanness…to vile passions…to a debased mind…committing what is
shameful…being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,
wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy , murder, strife,
deceit, evil-mindedness, they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God,
violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful (Romans 1:
The consequence to this rebellious
spirit leads to separation from the Creator, with the consequence that He
will not answer human prayers, though He clearly has the ability to: "Behold
the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, Nor His ear heavy that
it cannot hear. Your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you" (Isaiah 59: 1-2).
God Himself asserts that He has the
power to intervene in whatever situation that might arise: "Is my hand
shortened at all that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver?
Indeed with my rebuke I dry up the sea. I make the rivers a wilderness…I
clothe the heavens with blackness . And I make sackcloth their covering"
Isaiah 50:2-3). In short, God has the power to control natural disasters. He
has power over tsunamis, floods and earthquakes, etc. but He is prevented
from intervening by human wickedness. God will not
reward evil with good.
On the other hand, God does intervene
at times to protect those He is pleased with. Sometimes He chooses not to
intervene even on the righteous’ behalf, even if it involves death and
injury, and that is part of His great plan for each believer. In some
cases, even His greatest of Apostles have not been spared being involved in
destructive natural events. For instance, the Apostle Paul suffered
shipwreck twice because of great sea storms and almost lost his life.
At times, even great famines have not
been prevented, though God’s people would have been adversely affected by
them. In the New Testament we read that a great famine befell the area of
Judea and the Church in Jerusalem was not spared. In fact, the Apostle Paul
organized a charitable collection in Asia Minor for the benefit of the
suffering Christians in Judea. God allowed the famine to test the Jerusalem
Church’s faith and to test the liberality of the Gentile churches. God
does not allow suffering on His people capriciously. He has very good
reasons every time He tests His people severely, and those reasons are
invariably for their benefit.
On occasions though, the scriptures
make plain that God does intervene in the affairs of humanity and does bring
about catastrophes on humanity or nations, if they become very exceptionally
degenerate. The great Noachian Flood is an example of God’s intervention in
wiping out almost all of humanity for their extreme depravity. Sin abounded
on the earth, but God did not intervene for a long while. As the centuries
went by, "the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth
and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil
continually" (Genesis 6: 5). And God concluded that mankind did not deserve
to exist any longer, and thus the fatal verdict: "I will destroy man whom I
have created from the face of the earth" (V. 7). Only eight people found
favor in God’s eyes: Noah, his wife, his three children and their wives.
Sodom and Gomorrah attracted God’s
wrath and they, too, were obliterated. God "rained brimstone and fire on
Sodom and Gomorrah" (Gen. 19: 24), and "He overthrew those cities, and all
the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the
ground" (V. 25). God describes the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah as being "very
grievous" (Genesis 18: 20).
The New Testament tells us that
another reason why God overthrew the two cities was because He wanted their
destruction to be "an example to those who afterwards would live ungodly" (2
Peter 2: 6). God’s intervention was meant to be so powerful and so drastic
that all would hear and tremble. He also wanted generations to come to know
that His will is supreme, that He will not forebear evil forever and that,
though He is longsuffering, the day will come when He will extirpate evil in
very dramatic ways. Likewise, Jude warns that "Sodom and Gomorrah, and the
cities around them in similar manner, having given themselves over to sexual
immorality, and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example,
suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7).
Finally God assures us through various
Bible books, such as the prophets and the Book of Revelation, that in the
end of times God will again intervene and punish humanity severely for its
sins. The Two Witnesses, two great prophets of God, will first warn humanity
on God’s behalf, but all indications are that humans will refuse to repent,
in spite of the increasing severity of the punishments.
To summarize, God is presently not
involved in the affairs of this world. The sins of humanity and its
rebelliousness separate it from God and therefore humans are at the mercy of
cataclysmic natural events. When such cataclysmic events occur, God does not
intervene. When human depravity reaches unacceptable levels, God pours His
wrath on them. At the end of times God will bring about horrific destruction
on all of humanity, after warning humans with the Two Witnesses.
GOD IS LOVE
Being a holy and righteous God, the
Eternal will not be involved in the affairs of a sinful world. He does stand
by and watch, while catastrophes befall humanity and, at times, He causes
such catastrophes to punish depraved humans. Yet God is also "Love." How can
such a "loving" Being allow and bring about so much suffering? Is there more
to the picture than we see?
In John 3:16 we read that God gave
"His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but
have everlasting life." Many people through the ages have perished by
natural causes and through horrific wars and natural catastrophes, without
the knowledge of Christ. Many people have perished in non-Christian
South-East Asia without awareness of the salvific plan of God. Countless
innocent children have perished, and they had no knowledge of God, His will
or His Son. Is that it for all of them?
A God of love must finally show
humanity that He does have a plan of salvation that manifests his love for
all of humanity, and that He does have a way of bringing the knowledge of
Christ’s saving power to all people, including those who have died in
natural catastrophes without a knowledge of God. The Bible reveals such a
future plan, and it is as follows:
1. Christ returns, and converted Christians will be
resurrected to eternal life. (I Corinthians 15, Revelations
2. Christ will rule over the earth for
one thousand years during which time there will be no wars and
no catastrophes, and peace and joy will engulf the whole world. (Isaiah
2:1-4, 32, 35).
3. Satan will be let loose for a
little while at the end of the Millennium, and wars will re-occur
4. Afterwards, all the dead will be
resurrected and a time of judgment will begin in which the dead without a
knowledge of Christ will be enlightened and will have salvation offered to
them. Those who had rejected the Way, though converted, and those who reject
the way once enlightened, will be destroyed forever in the Lake of Fire
(Revelation 20: 13-15).
5. A New Heaven and a New Earth will
be created, permeated with holiness and justice. Finally all fear, hunger,
disease, wars, and natural disasters will be abolished forever. This is the
glorious time when "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there
shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more
pain, for the former things shall pass away" (Revelation 20: 4).
The sufferings of mankind are many.
Every day humans reap the fruits of following Satan's way of rebellion and
unrighteousness. God is allowing man to exercise His human free will and
learn from hard experience. God is out of human affairs, because humans want
Him out of their affairs. When calamities strike, He is far and distant and
will not intervene, except in the lives of those who please Him.
This horrible time of learning
allotted to humanity is nearly over. Soon the Great King will say "Enough!"
Jesus Christ will return, as He promised, and will assert Himself
over a rebellious humanity. Humans will finally obey God's Laws, even if at
first He will be forced to use a "Rod of Iron." During the Millennial rule
of Christ, men and women will taste the joy of submitting to God and will
reap the abundant benefits of obedience.
All of humanity, young and old, will
finally be resurrected and will know their God and will get to choose life
or death. If Christ and God's ways are their choice, they will be saved and
will live forever in a world where the anxieties and the horrors of this
life will be only fading memories.
May the Great God speed the day!
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