Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami - Part 1

Dealing with natural disasters from a Christian perspective

Why did it happen?

Was God asleep? Did the devil pull a fast one? Did God do it just for the sake of it?

Before we can get to the answer we need to lay some foundation blocks. One big block. And then three smaller ones places on top. And then we can build our conclusion on the top of this safe foundation. Here are 5 truths to help us think biblically about suffering and natural disasters.

Here’s the first big building block

Things only make sense if there is a God
If there is no God there is no point asking questions. There simply would be no reason why things happen.

That’s the conclusion the writer of Ecclesiastes came to when he looked at life around him. Without God, he said, everything is meaningless.

As Christians we may have problems answering questions about why things happen. But for the person who doesn’t believe in God, and who rejects God, they are in a far worse position, for they can’t even ask questions. If there is no God, then there is no meaning to life. And it doesn’t ultimately matter if we are killed by a falling tree, or cancer, or mugged, or drowned.

But something in us cries out against such a belief. The atheist finds himself living with a theory that he cannot live by.

As Christians we don’t need to be afraid, these sort of events don’t pose unanswerable questions. Instead they fit exactly into what the Bible tells us. When we look at the world through the lens of the Bible we find an explanation for the way everything is. This is the big foundation stone that underlies everything else.

Here then is the first of three smaller foundation stones.

God is in control not Satan, nature or chance
When the Indian continental plate dived under the Burma plate after 200 years of pressure building up, or when a volcano explodes in the Philippines we call these things natural disasters. Sometimes they are called freak accidents of nature. Or we attribute them to chance.

People look at situations like this and turn to the Christian and say, “If your God is powerful, why didn’t he stop this happening?”

And the temptation is for Christians to make excuses for God, blame nature or chance or blame the devil.

Satan does play a part in destruction and misery. We see that in Job. But ultimately it is God who holds the reins. He gives permission to Satan. But it is God alone who is the Lord of Heaven and earth. “He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke” (Psalm 104:32).

Earthquakes are ultimately from God. Nature does not have a will of its own. God is always in control. There is no heavenly battle with Satan setting off a disaster here and another one there with God running around like some helpless parent trying pick up the pieces and trying to tidy up one disaster and to stop another before it happens.

In other words, the earthquake happened because God allowed it to happen.

Strange as it may seem there is great comfort in this for the Christian.

Satan, or nature or chance aren’t some rogue elements that can come and turn our lives upside-down at their own will. There is no such thing as an accident in God’s mind. Whatever happens in this world is under the control of your father in Heaven. The Devil, although he is a fearsome enemy is not a free enemy. He can go no further than he is allowed by God. There is no such thing as a chance accident – everything that happens to you is finely calculated and designed by Almighty God. Nature with all its power and terrible force can do nothing to you unless he permits. No, nature, chance and Satan are firmly under the control of a loving father who only does what’s best for his children.

The second smaller foundation stone:

This world is not now as God intended it to be
It seems pretty obvious to anyone who really looks at it that this world is not a pretty place at times. Some parts are stunningly beautiful, but other parts are savage in their ferocity. We see hurricanes ripping through the Caribbean, we see volcanoes turning entire towns into ash, we see earthquakes and famines, and now a horror new to most of us – a tsunami.

Although many aspects of suffering can be explained by man’s selfishness, here is an example where the finger of blame cannot really be pointed at man. What happened to the world that God looked at in Genesis 1 and proclaimed to be “Very Good”?

Genesis 3 happened. When man sinned he brought disharmony into his relationship with God and with his wife, and with the earth.

Genesis 3:17 To Adam he said, …"Cursed is the ground because of you”

The earth, the planet itself has had to bear the marks of sin. We live on a cursed planet. Its beautiful in places – that’s the hallmarks of God’s design, but the pain and tragic events show us that this world we see now is not how God intended it to be.

In Rom 8 Paul tells us the same thing (v20-22) - “For the creation was subjected to frustration… bondage and decay… groaning…”

Adam’s sin has had a profound effect on the world. Disharmony in three directions. Disruption. Disunity. Disorder at three levels – God, people and earth.

Earthquakes are God’s way of reminding us that all is not right between us and God. If man could ever get to a point where he had removed from his conscience all imprints of God, and had managed for the first time in 1000s of years to live at peace with mankind, earthquakes and tsunamis and volcanoes would still be there to remind him that there was a fundamental problem in the universe, one that couldn’t be ignored.

There is no such thing as a natural disaster. All disasters are unnatural. This is not how God planned it to be. We are living in a world ruined by sin. And we cannot hide from that no matter how advanced our cities become, no matter no many peace-keeping envoys and ambassadors we send out.

Conclusion to follow tomorrow - Here

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