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Catastrophes. Everywhere.

What—or who—causes them?

One can run through the list of natural disasters in the United States and the world—I was surprised how many there were—to see the cost in human lives and wealth. New Orleans and Katrina. Hurricane Maria in 2017 which struck the East Coast, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, and in that same year, Hurricane Harvey, which mangled Texas and Louisiana. The earthquake and tsunami that overwhelmed Southeast Asia in 2004 and took a quarter of a million lives. What caused these calamities? Is it Mother Nature/Earth raging, paying us back for what we have done to her? That is a silly, superstitious attempt at anthropomorphism to give Mother Nature/Earth motives and will. The second explanation for weather-related disasters is just a guess. Global warming or climate change. Weather disasters occurred for many years before temperatures began to rise or the climate changed, whatever that means. And earthquakes? Just the Earth doing its thing.

How about disasters caused by humans? The attack on Pearl Harbor. The starvation of 600 million Chinese in the Great Leap Forward. The Great Purge under Stalin. Forty million dead in World War I; sixty million in World War II. The attempt by Nazis to annihilate the Jews. Two million killed under Pol Pot. Eight hundred thousand slaughtered, mostly with machetes, in the Rwandan Genocide. The Twin Towers. The mass shooting in Las Vegas. School massacres. To these we assign motive or try to. “Why did people do these things?” we ask over and over again, with no real answers from a human perspective. Christians maintain that these terrors are the result of sin and the fallenness of mankind. This answer, of course, is rejected out of hand by the unbelieving. No, they are more likely to mock God and His followers, saying, “Your God is either impotent or doesn’t care. You can’t have it both ways.” Is that true? Is the Lord impotent? Does He care about human suffering? Can’t He stop both natural and human disasters?

Of course He could. God is sovereign over all things. Nothing happens on the earth or in the universe that He doesn’t cause or allow. Many Christians, however, reject this truth. Certainly, their God would not do this. He loves the world. He brings life and hope, not horrendous events.

Apparently, these Christians have not read the Old Testament.

Or I guess they think God got saved between the Old and New Testaments.

Consider this verse: “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6b).1 This is a rhetorical question. The obvious answer the Lord required was, “No.”

And this: “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things (Isaiah 45:7).

I think the common response to these two verses would be, “That’s the Old Testament. Things are different now.” This untruth brings to mind some Christian women we met in a Mexican town in which we lived a few years ago, who were, sadly, asking God to reveal to them their sins which had made them sick. I brought up Job, whom God caused to suffer without giving a reason why. One responded, “That was in the Old Testament.”

So, I suppose we are to ignore the horrifying prophesies and warnings from the Savior whom they consider always only gentle and kind, that the Lord was going to destroy the temple and Jerusalem—which He did—at great human cost. Josephus wrote that 1.1 million Jews died in 70 A.D., and 97,000 enslaved by the Romans and their army.

Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has done it? Does He make well-being and create calamity? We can read these truths plainly in Scripture.

However, a caution. We must remember this passage: “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’” (Luke 13:1–5).

It is not for us to know why God brings disasters to pass. Therefore, it would be unwise, unjust, and harmfully ignorant for us to claim that the Lord brought calamity at a certain time to a certain place because of the sinful people there. Really? All of them were sinners and deserved this earthly justice? What about the place where you live? Any sinners there? Believers suffer these catastrophes along with unbelievers. The principal thing, Jesus said, is that we repent and come to know Him.

Everyone dies by some means or another. The years between adolescent and elderly is, in eternity’s scope, one flutter of a humming bird’s wing. It’s a matter of knowing the Lord that ultimately matters.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

 

 

 

 

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