Global catastrophes sadden us. The images are terrifying and experiencing such moments in history are deeply painful. Why does God allow this to go on? Is God causing it? Where is God in hurricanes and pain? Here are some answers that make sense biblically.
When God first created the world, he pushed back the chaos. He brought order where none existed. This is what much of Genesis 1–2 is about. This is why God’s focus at the beginning is the sky and the waters. He is pushing back the madness. He calls doing so “good.”
When God’s will is connected to natural disasters in the Old Testament—like the flooding of the earth—God is not happy about it. It’s a last resort. It means God letting his own work be undone. He isn’t causing the big disasters in the Old Testament; he is moving out of the way of the disasters that would be present otherwise. He wants order, not the chaos of storms. The storms sadden God. (Why destroy what you created? God wouldn’t want to destroy his own creation.)
God reaches his last resort in very distinct moments, like when an entire city has turned away from righteousness. This was the case for Sodom and Gomorrah, where not even ten righteous people could be found (Genesis 18:32–19:29). This was also the case for the flooding of the earth—only Noah and his family were found to be righteous (Genesis 6–8).
I know righteous people in the areas affected by Harvey and Irma; you probably know plenty of righteous people there too. If we do the math and run the probability of God causing all this, the answer here is pretty clear: God doesn’t want this. Instead, it’s caused by the chaos that still exists in the world. This type of chaos has been present ever since people went against God—ever since the fall of humankind with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Chaos was reintroduced into the world on that day. But there is good news in the midst of this sadness.
When Jesus came, died, and was resurrected, the very fabric of the relationship between people and God changed. Likewise, the relationship between people and the out-of-control creation changed. (Chaos took a serious blow.) Paul describes it this way:
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves … as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22–23 ESV).
Creation awaits the full redemption of Christ, just as our very bodies—which are currently subject to death—await that redemption.
Jesus brought full reconciliation with God the Father to humanity. And one day all of creation will experience the full meaning of redemption. We have signs of this already in the acts of Christ.
Jesus calmed storms (Mark 4:35–41). Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:22–33). Jesus talked about how to build spiritual houses that would withstand storms (Matthew 7:24–27). Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, which empowers us to do his work (John 14:15–31). We are able to look into the eye of the storm with hope because we know what is to come.
Pain and turmoil still exist because Jesus has not returned yet. Peter puts it this way:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise [of returning to earth] as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:10 ESV).
It is because of God’s great mercy that Jesus has not returned yet—because God wants to see many people come unto salvation. This is also why we have not seen creation completely redeemed.
When we experience great catastrophes in our world, it’s easy to doubt God’s mercy. It’s easy for us to look to God and place blame on him. But remember that one day new creation will come to be, when Jesus returns. Every tear will be wiped away and chaos will be completely put to rest. Death itself will end on that day (see Revelation 19–21).
Please pray for those in the midst of the chaos or recovering from it. Please pray for the chaos to be pushed back. Please pray because it matters. It can change things.
And take action. Support and encourage those living in the eye of the storm. Show them your love. You can even volunteer to help people rebuild. Or you can give fiscally to the relief efforts. There is power in God’s people coming together to fight back against the chaos. It shows that we believe that chaos won’t win.
This article is adapted in part from my older blog post “Is God Angry at the East Coast?” published on ConversantLife.com.