Let’s Talk God and Human Tragedy

Whenever a human tragedy (e.g., Hurricanes Harvey and Irma), which destroys the lives of many people, takes place in the world, believers in Christ and unbelievers alike ask the inevitable question. This query is designed primarily to bring doubt or distrust in the Sovereign’s existence or, if He does exist, people are to assume that He has left them in their beds, which they have made for themselves. “Why would a loving God allow such a human tragedy?” Sometimes the question is a statement: “If God truly exists, He would not allow such tragedy!” Others ask the question: “Why do good people suffer?

Firstly, let us do away with this last question by simply accepting the fact that no person is actually good. “We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are all under judgment. No one does good, except God. Human association with the Judea-Christian worldview shapes behavior for the betterment of a society and the believer’s personal connection with Him through continued and growing obedience to His will can transform us into God’s image, which we see only in Christ, our Savior and eternal Example. Remember, love, justice and righteousness are intrinsic to God; these are not natural human qualities. If there is no God, there is no good.

Secondly, it is critical that we recall the state of the world prior to the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. It was indeed paradise, which means that it was unaffected by the effects of sin. There were no storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, war or anything of the sort; in fact, water came from beneath the ground to the surface, not from above. The point is this: the world in which we live is fallen, broken and corrupt in the same way that people are. Pay close attention to these enlightening words of the Apostle Paul:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now23 And not only this but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

The earth and its inhabitants equally share in the fallenness, that is, the suffering of human nature. Creation, just like you and me, experiences all manner of suffering, which is evidenced in its horrendous storms and massive and deadly quaking. We are not promised physical and emotional safety in this world, but those who place their trust in the death, burial and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ will one day experience, not just the spiritual freedom that comes with living the virtues that shape our characters into Christlikeness, but the freedom that comes with life beyond the grave, which is spiritual, physical and emotional.

Christians are sojourners in this world, ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20-21; Eph. 6:18-20; please read). If God kept us free from the consequences of our natures (sorrow, suffering, pain and death), how could we possibly represent the eternal love of Christ to others? Put simply, we can’t! We would not know sympathy, empathy, compassion, sacrifice, nor would we know love. So we suffer that we might know God more fully and represent Him more accurately. Without the suffering, I am certain that we all would take God for granted; in fact, without suffering from the curse of our fallenness, we could never know God; neither could we serve Him; actually, we wouldn’t want to know and serve Him. People learn to trust Him in and through the storms, or the storms turn them against Him. Through the storms of life, He has saved me and made Himself known to me through His amazing Word. Suffering is not pleasant or naturally desirable; it can often be terrifying, but brothers and sisters, it is necessary if we are to know Him well. When the wind comes, faithfully turn into it; He is right there with you as you endure until you die and then experience the full redemption of your body and soul.

So much more can be said about this issue, but for now, I hope this gives you something good to talk about with your friends.

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I am a published author, co-author and editor of 13 books, written numerous articles, taught online at Liberty University and Grace College (Indiana), and appeared on numerous radio and TV programs. I am a theologian, bioethicist and retired veteran.

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