Any time a tornado devastates a town or a hurricane sends would-be victims scurrying for higher ground, the obvious question rises to the surface of the rubble and the water:
How could this happen?
As a Christian, I believe God is in control of everything. But when a tragedy like this occurs, it leaves a lot of people (believer and unbeliever alike) scratching their heads. If God is in charge, and God is completely good, then how is it possible for things like this to happen?
As the death toll in Oklahoma continues to rise, it’s a sensitive topic to attempt to touch on. But it is an important question. And while it may seem arrogant to offer a response, I want to seek to do that. Not because I’m a know-it-all (I’m not…I struggle with the question and the response), but rather to attempt to comfort those who are asking (in one form or another): Why?
We live in a fallen world.
A lot of times when this point is postured it’s in the context of the individual soul. Since Adam & Eve sinned that day in the Garden of Eden, every woman and man has been stained by sin. That’s why we need redemption, a Savior, and mercy from God.
But creation has suffered a similar fate. The Bible says that all creation groans for redemption (Romans 8). Every twisted tree and leveled school building is a part of that groaning. Things are not perfect. They are broken. That’s the world we live in. So there are droughts and tsunamis and earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes and all manner of natural disasters (this may not be the place to suggest it, but I think global climate change is a part of this weakening of our world, too).
These things are not new, but they do seem more common. Or maybe we’re just more populated so it affects more of us. Or maybe we just cover news faster now so we’re more aware. Regardless of frequency or cause, the reality is that the fundamental reason for all this destruction is that our world (that is, our planet and nature) is broken and in need of redemption just like the humans that live on and in it.
God is in charge.
I believe God is in charge. Colossians 1 says that He made everything and He holds everything together. But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t falling apart. Nor does it mean that every bad thing that happens is God’s preference.
This is a delicate subject. If God is in control, and bad things happen, that means God let it happen, right? Well, in a sense, yes. If God wanted to stop all this He could. He doesn’t need to ask anyone’s permission. At the same time, I don’t think every natural disaster slides across God’s desk and requires His signature on it before taking place.
Remember, this is a broken piece of rock we call home. Natural disasters are, well, natural. While God permits certain things, I don’t think that necessarily means He enjoys them. Anyone who thinks God was pleased by the loss of life of so many doesn’t know God’s heart. As Creator, I think God grieves with His creation when things don’t go as He planned.
It is worth underscoring that the world God created and intended was good–perfect, in fact. Humanity’s sinful actions have put our society on the course it is on. God is seeking to restore and redeem that society and the creation as a whole. These tragedies are examples of things God mourns about, I believe.
Not takes joy in.
God can make bad stuff good.
The first thing on everyone’s mind after an event like this is to mourn because of the brokenness. The second thing on everyone’s mind is rebuilding. Some folks get to the second thought faster than others. When they get to that point, God is already there.
Have you ever wondered why people keep rebuilding in the same places? Why do people keep flooding back to New Orleans after they are flooded out? What gives people that steely resolve? Perhaps God inserted it into us as a part of our nature, part of His character.
All God does is rebuild. He rebuilds broken people, broken marriages, broken societies, broken churches, broken hearts, and broken dreams. Read the Bible. Adam and Eve sin, and God patiently prevents them from access to the tree of eternal life, so they would not have to live eternally in their sin. Instead, he puts into motion a series of events whereby they can live eternally with him.
The passage in Romans 8:28 is often quoted here. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
It’s what God does. He takes messed up situations and somehow weaves them into something beautiful. He usually does this through his church. Right now, there are churches all over the nation plotting how they can best serve the communities affected by the recent storms. I got a phone call from a church member who wanted to help mere moments after the storm touched down.
There are horrific, tragic, nearly untellable tales that will emerge from these events. There are also beautiful stories of heroism and redemption that will rise from the rubble, encouraging folks that better days are head.
Better days are ahead.
Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Part of the reason I think God tells us that we should not put our hope in this world but instead live as aliens in this lower-case kingdom is to save us a lot of heartbreak. If all we hope in is this stuff–this house, this car, this zip code, this salary, this present age–we are going to be sorely disappointed time and time again. Storms can flatten that stuff in a jiffy.
For the believer, the suffering we undergo on this earth is temporary. It’s a blink of an eye in the larger picture. Our glory that awaits–when we live forever with Jesus.
It sounds insensitive to say it now, and I certainly don’t mean it as such. But maybe the one reason God does allow stuff like this to happen is to remind us where we really belong. How much heartache must one experience in this life before truly hoping in a heartache-free next life?
I know that questions persist.
Hearts are broken. Rescue missions are still underway. Devastation is still fresh. Relief efforts are spinning into motion.
We live in a fallen world, but God is control. God can (and will) make bad stuff good. And better days are ahead.