A magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck Chile Tuesday night, killing six people and forcing thousands to evacuate. Seawater flooded city streets and washed away fishing boats. Landslides blocked roads, knocked out power, damaged an airport and started fires.
Why does God allow such natural disasters?
I recently saw the movie "God's Not Dead." The central plot line pits a Christian college freshman against his atheistic philosophy professor. We soon learn that the professor rejects God because his mother died when he was 12. The freshman admits that evil and suffering are atheists' greatest objection to an all-loving, all-powerful deity. Then he explains suffering as the consequence of free will. He's right, of course: "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death"
But what about suffering for which there is no free-will cause? If the earthquake in Chile were the result of underground nuclear tests or mining demolition, the question would be different. But when earthquakes strike for no man-made reason, how are we to respond?
This issue is very personal for me. My father had his first heart attack when I was two years old, and died from another attack when I was in college. He did not smoke, exercised regularly, and watched his diet. He did nothing to contribute to his condition, yet he died at a younger age than I am now. Why didn't an all-loving, all-powerful God answer my prayers for his health?
Four facts seem relevant. One: natural disasters and diseases are a consequence of the Fall (Romans 8:19-21). Two: our Father suffers as his children suffer. He grieved the devastation in Chile as he grieves all pain in his creation. Three: God can intervene in nature, healing diseased bodies (Matthew 8:14-17) and calming stormy seas (vs. 23-27). Four: our Creator redeems for greater good all he allows.
Logic leads me to conclude that God did not intervene in the earthquake because he intends to redeem it for a greater good than would have occurred if he had prevented it. The same holds true for my father's heart disease and your suffering today.
This is a great mystery. If I were God, there would be no disasters or disease. But then our world would lose all the good that comes from pain—the lessons we learn, the compassion we share, the growth we experience. The God who is all-loving (1 John 4:8), who can never make a mistake, is still on the throne of the universe. He did not change when the earthquake struck. If I trusted his character and grace before the disaster, I can trust him now.
What is your earthquake today?