God and Natural Disasters

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God and Natural Disasters – Are they the work of God or the devil?
History is full of natural disasters. What role does God play in them? On December 26, 2004, the South Asian Tsunami roared along the Indian Ocean, impacting 11 countries, killing more than 225,000. Scientists tell us that this disaster not only changed the landscape of Asia, but actually shook Earth so violently that it wobbled on its axis. Just twelve days into 2010, the death toll from Haiti’s earthquake was close to 222,570. While Indonesia’s “strike slip” quakes (April 13, 2012) did not cause killer tsunamis, they exhibited the sixth-largest tremblor in the last half-century.1

One might wonder if these natural disasters are the work of Satan, who “steals, kills, and destroys.” If this were true, why doesn’t he kill all of God’s creation with earthquakes or flood cities full of people where many are serving God? In Genesis 6, a universal deluge does, in fact, cover the entire planet, nearly destroying the entire human race.

When God came down on Mt. Sinai, the earth quaked (Exodus 19:18). The Shechinah, or glory of the Lord, appeared in the sight of all the people. On the cross, Jesus drew His final breath while the earth shook, splitting rocks. The temple curtain separating the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place was torn by a supernatural power and the bodies of many dead saints came to life (Matthew 27:50-52). At Jesus’ resurrection, the earth leaped for joy, shaking with exaltation (Matthew 28:2-3). Why would the devil want to draw attention to God’s hatred of wickedness or recognize God’s dominion over death? Instead, Satan remains restrained, to be eternally hurled down by the power, the kingdom of our God, and by the authority of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:9-10).

God and Natural Disasters – Why does God allow them?
Natural disasters often occur without warning. The U.S. Geological Survey monitors earthquakes throughout the world. During a tour of its Colorado facility, I witnessed Vanuatu’s 4.7 and Alaska’s 4.6 earthquakes as they occurred, nearly simultaneously.2 As the seismic needles jumped across the paper, I watched “helplessly,” as God allowed the earth to heave and convulse. News of Indonesia’s (8.6 magnitude, 8.2 aftershock) April quakes, reported: “Distraught women ran into the streets clinging to crying children . . . ‘God! What have we done to deserve this?’ One mother screamed...‘What sins have we committed?’”3

Few natural disasters in the Bible are a simple matter of historic fact, lacking any symbolic value (Amos 1:1). Instead, these catastrophes frequently reflect a direct manifestation of God’s power (Nahum 2:1-6). As a divine warrior, the sovereign Lord would battle His enemies as a “tempest” (Isaiah 29:6). God’s fury, like “torrents of rain and hurled hail” would overthrow what people built in opposition to Him (Ezekiel 13:10-11). Only God forms and moves the forces of nature, accomplishing His will:

  • To Deliver Divine Judgment – Some natural disasters are made worse by man's poor judgments and age-long rejection of God and His laws. He is the God of infinite justice (Numbers 16:26, 31-33; Isaiah 13:11, 13).
  • To Affirm His Presence – God manifests Himself to instruct, protect, and rescue His children (Exodus 19:16-18; 1 Samuel 14:15; Acts 16:25-26).
  • To Display His Sovereignty – As the King of kings, Jesus Christ’s return will be introduced by extreme weather phenomena (Matthew 24:27-29). When God’s kingdom is established, the nations will be shaken (Haggai 2:6-7; Jeremiah 10:10).
In ancient times, it was often believed that a calamity would befall only those who were extremely evil or sinful (Job 4:7). Scripture provides examples of when God pre-warned believers of coming disasters. Noah and his family were protected from the Great Flood. The Israelites were saved from Egypt’s plagues in the land of Goshen. When Jerusalem was destroyed and hundreds of thousands died in the Roman holocaust of A.D. 70, Jesus had pre-warned the believers so they could safely escape (Luke 21:20-24).

God and Natural Disasters – Why do they happen to both Christians and non-believers?
In God’s design for the world, He allows many events to run their course according to “time and chance” (Ecclesiastes 9:11), so that many tragedies, for the Christians and non-believers, are accidental and unforeseeable. If we accept God as the Creator of Heaven and Earth, then He must possess full knowledge and control of that which He allows to occur.

There will always be a mystery of the divine purposes of God which we cannot fully grasp (Romans 11:33-34). We don't know all the reasons God sends or permits specific calamities—or why particular people are made to suffer by them. Yet, there is an assurance that comes when we allow God to reign over our lives. “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (Isaiah 32:18).

God said in Bible prophecy that natural disasters would grow in frequency and intensity as the end of the age approaches—to shake people out of their complacency and lead them to seek Him (Mark 13:8, 23-25; Revelation 11:13; Revelation 16:18-21). When natural disasters occur, the believers possess a clear conscience as they place their faith in God’s promises and providence. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall in the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1–2).

Is there Meaning in Tragedy?

1 “Strike slip” quakes occur as a result of friction and shaking along the fault line horizontally, causing a vibration in the water. A megathrust quake causes the seabed to vertically rise or drop, displacing massive amounts of water, i.e. tsunamis.

2 Vanuatu consists of an island group in the southern Pacific Ocean, east of northern Australia.

3 “Indonesians Flee To High Ground; No Tsunami Comes From Earthquakes.” The Associated Press 12 April 2012: 3.


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