BreakPoint: Where Is God in the Storms?

Christ and the Problem of Natural Evil

With so much devastation in the news, it’s hard not to ask God, “Why?” Here’s some help for responding to questions about natural disasters and God.

Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, a massive earthquake in Mexico, wildfires across the western United States. The string of natural disasters in the last few weeks has left many wondering: Where is God in the midst of all this suffering, loss of life, and destruction?

It’s a question nearly as old as time. As the Greek philosopher, Epicurus asked, Is God able to stop suffering but not willing? Then He isn’t all-good. Is He willing, but not able? Then He isn’t all-powerful. In both cases, He’s not really God.

And Voltaire, the French philosopher, famously argued in a poem that the All Saints Day Earthquake in Lisbon in 1755 made believing in an all-good, all-powerful God untenable.

Thankfully, many Christians have tackled this tough question. In fact, Colson Center Senior Fellow, J. Warner Wallace offers a few of his thoughts in an upcoming column at BreakPoint.org.

First, Wallace points out that “natural disasters” aren’t always entirely, well, natural. Human freedom and planning leads to homes and cities being built in places susceptible to earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions. Sometimes corners are cut on building materials or construction in order to save money. These choices can put people in harm’s way when nature turns dangerous.

And second, calamity often reveals the very best of human character, as opportunities abound to love those in need. In the early centuries of Christianity, pagan hearts were softened toward the Gospel when Christians ran toward great plagues and disasters, rather than away. In the same way, as we’ve told you on BreakPoint, Christians today provide the bulk of relief in the wake of the recent hurricanes. These disasters are terrible, but the displays of neighborly love are beautiful.

And finally, our visceral reaction to the tragedy and suffering caused by natural disasters, far from disproving an all-powerful, all-loving God, is actually strong evidence for His existence. C. S. Lewis admitted in “Mere Christianity” that as an atheist, he thought the injustice in the world was an airtight argument against Christianity. But then he wondered: “How had I gotten this idea of just and unjust?”

His argument depended on evil and suffering being objectively bad, not just inconvenient. But if we’re merely subatomic particles, then no arrangement of those particles can be morally better or worse than any other. Our hearts cry out that this world is not the way it’s supposed to be. And atheism can only reply, “Sure it is.”

But we know better. The world is broken. It’s not functioning according to God’s original design, and Christianity places the blame on humanity’s rebellion against the Creator.

But the Christian message doesn’t end there. God assures us that He’s with us in the hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and fires. In Jesus Christ, He entered the world’s brokenness and joined our suffering, crying out with a very human heart as He Himself tasted death on our behalf: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The question that Jesus asked here points to the only answer to Epicurus’ question, because Jesus is the only God Who is all-good, all-loving, and knows what it means to feel the brunt of evil and suffering.

As Edward Shillito wrote in his poem, “Jesus of the Scars”:

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;

They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;

But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,

And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

Remember that the Suffering Savior is now the enthroned King. Suffering and death do not have the last word. Sin is a defeated foe. All will be made new again.

And so, in light of that Truth, or better yet because of the One who is Truth, we can give our best answer to the question of suffering by following the example of our Savior, and His Church throughout history, by running toward the disasters with love, with help, with grace, and with the Gospel.

 

 

Where Is God in the Storms?: Christ and the Problem of Natural Evil

In the midst of disaster, destruction, and suffering, believers have the example of Jesus Christ. He identifies with our suffering, and we can trust Him never to leave us or forsake us.

 

Resources

The Problem of Pain
  • C. S. Lewis | HarperOne | April 2015
God, Freedom, and Evil
  • Alvin Plantinga | Eerdmans Publishers | March 1989
“Jesus of the Scars”
  • Edward Shillito

2017-09-19 11:30:08

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.

  • Lobanz D’Grate

    [ Another try. Original edited to try to better comply with the Comment Policy. Apologies if this is a duplicate. ]

    This is an extremely easy question to answer! The problem is that the answer is overlooked because it goes against some incorrect but firmly entrenched dogma. The argument is that if God could prevent disasters but doesn’t prevent them, it means that He doesn’t exist or that He isn’t good. This argument implies that God OUGHT to be primarily interested in our personal comfort, convenience and survival and that if He isn’t then He either isn’t good or that He doesn’t love us very much. Those that make this argument are actually anthropomorphizing the Creator of all things. “God is not a man”. He does not necessarily share our own goals, values or worldview. I think that it is pretty clear from the scriptures that this mortal life is full of dangers, hardships, temptations, and even evil demonic forces on purpose and by God’s design. God CAN cause storms and floods and car wrecks and such, and He may do this from time to time. And he CAN and DOES miraculously save some from calamity — sometimes. But most of what we deal with is just wind and rain swirling around according to the laws of nature which God created. Storms, earthquakes, forest fires, etc don’t happen because nature is broken. And they usually aren’t from the Devil. Almost always, they are just natural things that happen. The rest of our issues arise from our own choices or the choices of other people. Car wrecks, rapes, murders, power outages, etc are usually our own doing, although some of it occurs under the influence of demonic forces. But regardless of the underlying cause of the hardship, ALL of it — the whole environment in which we live our mortal lives — is designed to test our faith and our faithfulness. This testing would not happen without hardship and temptation — none of which is directly attributable to God. He just made a world where it could (and probably would) exist. This mortal life is just a sieve that filters out those who value comfort and convenience over faithfulness to God. It weeds out those who serve the creation more than the Creator. Adam and Eve were “true” before the Fall. But it is the message of all the Scripture that God wants people who are “tried and true”. God does not exist to ensure your comfort, convenience or survival. It goes against His plan to rescue you out of all your trouble. So, relax. God is still there. This is a test. This is ONLY a test. The important question is, “Will you pass the test?”.

    — Lobanz

  • NCOriolesFan

    I love the Footprints poem, including the last verse that says, when you see only one set of footprints, it was there that I (Jesus) carried you – http://www.footprints-inthe-sand.com/index.php?page=Poem/Poem.php