From the Desk of Austin Braasch:
Why Did Your God Allow This To Happen?
“Though Christianity does not provide the reason for each experience or pain, it provides deep resources for actually facing suffering with hope and courage rather than bitterness and despair.”
-Tim Keller, The Reason for God
Over the past two weeks the United States has been impacted by two major hurricanes. These storms caused an incredible amount of damage, loss of life, and displacement for citizens. Here are a few statistics to help you understand the extremity of these two storms: Harvey has claimed 70 lives, flooded 30,000 properties in Houston, and is expected to surpass Katrina as far as the economic impact is concerned. Some two weeks later Irma, a category 5 hurricane, made its’ presence known in the Caribbean islands and Florida. Some islands took such a hit that it is reported they are 95% uninhabitable. The loss of life can’t even be measured at this point. Even still, 6.5 million people without power in Florida and countless homes and businesses are already destroyed. Physical loss, material loss, emotional loss, financial loss. These storms have caused an incredible amount of suffering in the last two weeks.
As ambassadors of the Good News of Christ, we will be asked to field some very hard questions concerning God’s involvement in these storms. Questions will come to us honestly from skeptics, believers, and even our own consciouses. The questions will be framed most likely in this way, “You say your God is good and loving and involved in all of life, but why didn’t He stop this from happening?” That is a good question I must say. I too wonder where God is in times of suffering and natural disaster. God reveals in scripture that He created the waters (Gen. 1), He can control the waters (Ex. 14, Jos. 4), He can silence the waters (Mk. 4), and He can even walk on the water (Matt. 14). Our Lord is involved with nature very intimately, and He controls it with very specific purposes in mind. So I myself ask, what is His purpose in allowing this when He easily could’ve stopped it? Is there a purpose? Occurrences like this make me doubt, like any reasonable human would.
We, as Christians, have a few different options on how to respond to this catastrophe. First, we could choose to spiritualize God. It would sound like this, “My God is loving and good and would never do this. The world is broken and painful, and we must retreat to the spiritual world with God.” Another way to respond could be trying to explain these storms for God. Essentially, trying to get him off the hook for what happened. This normally looks like going to Revelation and trying to connect these events to some end times scenario. Playing connect the dots with Scripture so that we can say, “You see! It had to happen like this!” Our last option, and the one I argue for, is to let God speak for Himself by trusting who He has revealed Himself to be in Scripture.
Psalm 77 captures this struggle and gives us the prayer we must learn to pray in the midst of tragedy. [Read Psalm 77:7-15]. The Psalmist is struggling with deep hurt and pain because he thinks God has abandoned the situation, but instead of spiritualizing or explaining, he recounts God’s character revealed to us in Scripture. The Psalmist finds that his perception of reality is not God’s perception of reality. Though he may be in dismay, God is not. Though he may think God is far from him and the situation, God is very near. How does he know this? Because of who God is and what he has done. Verse 15, the climax of the Psalm, notes that God has redeemed his own people. The Psalmist goes to the Scriptures when he questions God, and he finds God to be in control and actively redeeming the situation.
I can not fully explain why the storms occurred. Science can not even do that. I don’t know God’s many motivations by allowing this to happen and not silencing the storm’s fury with the utterance of a word. But I do know that these storms do not negate any goodness from God’s character. God is good and we can know this based on his work of redemption. His redemption of His people climaxes in Jesus’ work on the cross. On the cross, Jesus chose to experience the fullest degree of human pain and suffering. The cross exclaims, “I care about your suffering. I care enough to enter into it with you. I care enough to take it on the the fullest extent and redeem it.” In our present sufferings we must look to the God that suffers with us and for us. Jesus took on suffering for the sake of our redemption. This enables us to take on suffering knowing that God always has redemptive purposes in the foremost of his mind. Tragedy is not meaningless or proof that God is not present. Tragedy gives us an opportunity for faith in the redemptive work of Christ Jesus who is “making all things new (Rev. 21:5).”