Why is the world in such a mess if God is in control? How could a God of love let masses of people die from killer hurricanes, catastrophic earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks and disease? Why such bizarre carnage and chaos? Is the world coming to an end? Is God pouring out his wrath upon sinners? Why is it so often the bloated bodies of the poor, the elderly, and the children that are strewn among the rubble? These are the questions most people are begging to be answered.
This may surprise you - God is not in the business of bringing calamities.
On the contrary, He is the giver of life. The Bible says, “ . . . for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but My salvation shall be for ever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished" (Isaiah 51:6). This text declares a dramatic difference between natural calamities and the work of God.
When God came to earth in the form of man He did nothing to hurt people, only to help them. Jesus said, "For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:56). He said, "Many good works have I shown you from My Father. For which of those works do ye stone Me?" (John 10:32). He says, ". . . it is not the will of your Father who is in Heaven that one of these little ones should perish" (Matt. 18:14).
It was God's design that His sons and daughters should forever smell the fragrance of exotic flowers, not rotting corpses. They should always enjoy the delicacies of tropical fruit and tasty dishes, not face hunger and starvation. He is the one who provides the fresh air from a mountaintop and cool sparkling water, not ugly pollution.
Why is nature going wild and destructive?
When Adam and Eve sinned it brought a natural consequence to the earth. "And unto Adam He [God] said, "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, `Thou shalt not eat of it,' cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life (Gen. 3:17). The descendants of Adam became so violent and corrupt that God allowed the world to be destroyed by a global flood (Genesis 6:5,11). The fountains of the deep were broken up (Genesis 7:11). There was great volcanic activity. The layers of the earth's crust were formed and nature was turned out of its God-given course. The stage was set for earthquakes, and killer storms. The natural world is nearing the final consequence of the choice of our first parents, but God is in the business of rescuing, helping, healing. He holds out salvation and everlasting life to all who will receive Him.
If God does not bring calamities, who does?
The existence of a real devil also comes as a surprise to many, though the Bible is very clear on the point. It is Satan who is the destroyer. Jesus said, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:18). Satan was once a holy angel at the right hand of God in heaven (Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28). He rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven. "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:9). Jesus said, "the devil was a murderer from the beginning, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). The Bible says that the devil would attempt to deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9). One way he tries to do this is to spread the idea that there is no real Satan. According to George Barna, fewer and fewer people in America believe in a real devil. This includes an alarming number of "born again" Christians. The Christian Theologian/ Philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, in his book, How Shall We Then Live? declares that the existence of a real devil is the only thing that can explain the existence of evil in a world that is predominantly good. He says that this biblical truth explains what has confused philosophers throughout the ages.
The Old Testament story of Job is a classic example of how Satan is sometimes allowed by God to bring calamities. Job lost his cattle, his crops, and his family to vicious terrorist attacks, a killer hurricane and firestorm. The people said these came from God, but a careful reading of the text reveals that Satan obtained permission from God to bring these evils (Job 1:1-12).
Why does God give Satan permission to destroy?
Satan deceived Eve and through her he led Adam to sin. Since Adam was the first man and head of the human race, Satan claimed that Adam had chosen him to become "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The chaos in this world is caused by the fact that Satan is fighting to hold on to his claim to be the god of this world. He makes this claim on the basis that many inhabitants of the world have chosen him to be their leader. The Bible says, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Romans 6:16). God has given his ten commandments as guidelines for what is right and wrong. He offers the power of the new birth in order to write these laws in the heart. Many, however, choose to neglect the offer of a new birth and to live outside God's will.
The Bible says that in the last days, ". . . evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13). Because of this the Lord allows the destroying angels to work (Psalm 78:49).
God is Love, and His character is perfectly unselfish and just. Therefore, his own love prevents Him from doing anything that is unfair. Satan claims that it would be unfair for God to interfere with man's free choice. Satan claims that God must allow those who choose Satan to follow him. God lets Satan demonstrate to the universe the consequence of sin when Satan has his own way.
A rebellious teen may choose to leave home because he/she finds the rules too restricting. He or she may find a cruel world waiting to teach them the harsh realities of life. The parents do not stop loving their rebellious son or daughter. They do not want them to be hurt, but they can do little to prevent them if they are determined to go. The parents hope and pray that the difficult realities of the world will bring them home much like the prodigal son in the Bible (Luke 15:18). The Bible says, “ . . .and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?" (Deuteronomy 31:17). This is the message that we may learn from calamities. They can lead us as individuals and as a nation to seek God more fully.
Why did God create the devil?
The answer is that God did not create the devil. He created a perfect angel called Lucifer (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28). Lucifer, in turn, made a perfect devil out of himself. Lucifer tempted a perfect man and woman to sin. When they did so, they opened a floodgate of evil.
Why does God not kill the devil?
Some will ask: If it is not God's will for people to die, why does He allow it to happen? If it is Satan doing the dirty work, why does God not stop him? Have things gone beyond God's control?
God could have destroyed Satan. He could have destroyed Adam and Eve and started over. If He had done this, however, He would have been ruling from the standpoint of force, rather than love. In order for love to flourish, it must operate on the principle of freedom of choice. Without freedom to choose there would be no such thing as real love. We would simply be robots. God could let us keep the gift of freedom, however, and let us see the reasons for making the right choice by allowing sin to run its course.
Why is it so often the poor, the elderly, and the children who suffer the most?
Some would say it is not fair for the innocent to suffer. This is true. The point is that sin is not fair. God is fair, but sin is not fair. That is the nature of sin. When Adam sinned he gave himself and the human race into the hands of a destroyer. God allows Satan to become active in working through nature to bring about destruction as a consequence of man's choice. God does not want it to happen. He did not want Adam and Eve to sin. But he allowed it because He gave man the gift of freedom of choice.
A son or daughter may rebel against good parents and go out into the world and become a drug dealer. They may have children. They may abuse the children. This is not fair, yet it happens when people make wrong choices. A loving parent or grandparent would want to rescue abused children. This is why Jesus came to this earth (Mark 3:27).
Does God send calamities to kill sinners?
Some mistakenly think that God always sends calamities to punish sinners. This is not true. Jesus commented on acts of violence and natural calamities that happened in His day. The Bible says, "There were present at that season some who told Him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, "Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, nay; but unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all other men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, nay; but unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:1-5).
These things happened because in a world of sin there are calamities and atrocities that take place that would not happen in a perfect world. It does not mean that everyone who dies in such calamities is a sinner nor does it mean that God causes the calamity. It is often the innocent that suffer the consequences of living in this world of sin.
But didn't God destroy wicked cities like Sodom and Gomorrah?
Yes, God has rarely, in times past, brought judgment upon the wicked as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible says, "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7). This destruction of wicked cities was an example of the judgments that God will bring upon the world just before Jesus comes. In His mercy, he allowed his judgment to fall so that many others might take heed to the warning. This does not necessarily mean that God is pouring out His wrath in judgment upon cities like New York, New Orleans, or Port-au-Prince.
Some have suggested that perhaps these calamities might be the beginning of the final judgments of God upon the wicked. One should not rule out the possibility that God is beginning to send judgments upon the wicked, however these horrible events may well be simply the results of life in a world fallen from God's ideal. Even if these might be considered early warnings of final judgment, none should conclude that all those who died are eternally lost. Jesus said that in the final judgment it would be more tolerable for some of those destroyed in Sodom, than for those who rejected his invitation to salvation in cities that were not destroyed (Luke 10:12).
What is the wrath of God that will be poured out in the last days?
The Bible explains the wrath of God as allowing man to choose his own separation from God. When the Bible mentions the wrath of God, it does not mean that God is vindictive or retaliatory. He allows mankind to go their own way because they choose to do so. The Bible says, "Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them" (Deuteronomy 31:17). Destruction of the wicked comes because, as the Bible says, "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13).
This tells us that the wrath of God is the consequence that come to the one that God leaves to his or her own choice to separate from Him. God does not want to give up any of his children to destruction. He says, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboiim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together" (Hosea 11:8). The Lord longs with all His heart to see all mankind eternally saved. The Bible says, "Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Ezekiel 33:11.
Is God on vacation? Why does it seem like He stands by and lets all this happen?
Where is God when all this happens? Do not good people pray for safety? The Bible says, "Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?" (Jeremiah 23:23). The Son of God did not remain aloof from suffering. He suffers with the innocent. He was the classic example of the suffering of the innocent. As a matter of fact, from the beginning, He has done only good. He accepted the consequence of our rebellion against Himself, however. He did not stay away. He came down to this world and suffered in our suffering. God himself experienced the most horrible pain imaginable upon the cross. He endured the pain of the hostility of a sinful human race. He took upon Himself the consequence of our sins.
The real point when calamities happen is that it could happen to any of us at any time. It is because God is love that heartbeat follows heartbeat. He gives life and love to all. Billions of people wake up to fresh air, warm sunshine, delicious food, and comfortable homes. We have no individual claim on life, however, as though we had created ourselves. We must acknowledge that we live in a world that is subject to death from a variety of sources. We need to remember what Jesus said, that unless we repent we shall all likewise perish. Calamities serve to remind us of the fact that apart from the salvation which Jesus offers, there is no hope for the human race. We can expect more and more destruction as we come closer to the coming of Jesus. The Bible says, "A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD" (Jeremiah 25:31). The message of the Lord is, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (Romans 13:11).
No More Pain
The calamities and catastrophes that engulf our world serve as a reminder that this world of sin, pain, hate, fear and tragedy will not last forever. God intended it that way. Jesus has promised us He is coming back to save us from our world that is falling to pieces. God will make everything new again - and sin will never rise up again (Nahum 1:9). God will live with His people and there will be an end to death, crying, and pain. It's in the Bible, Revelation 21:3-4, NIV. "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."