by Larry Lowery
In 1816 there was a military battle raging for the area of New Orleans, but in the early days of September, 2005, there was a different kind of war raging. A war of nature, as Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast of America. Many of us watched and waited for the media to show us the results of this destructive storm. Unfortunately, we did see the predicted mass destruction of lives and territory as the storm passed. An entire city uprooted in a matter of hours, not to mention other coastal areas that were devastated. One would have to be numb not to ask himself why nature would deal such a terrible and fatal blow. These types of disasters always provoke many questions. And rightly so.
Here are a few examples of religious questions and comments I have heard: How could God allow such things to happen, with so many innocent people perishing, especially children? Where is God when this sort of evil occurs?
These questions deserve to be answered, if possible. Please allow me to make an attempt at responding. First, let's look at what some religions may say about this suffering. We all know that the Orient hosts a myriad of religious convictions. Many Westerners are intrigued by the mysticism of these religions, but many are unaware of the basic doctrines that these religions propagate.
The proponents for Hinduism and Buddhism, for example, would say that evil or suffering don't exist—they are merely illusions. This answer, at its core, is a denial of the human senses. To tell the flood survivors that what they experienced was a figment of their imagination would be absurd. I don't see much compassion or hope in such a doctrine. It would be to say what has happened to your loved one is just an unreal illusion. That, I am afraid doesn't face reality, and certainly doesn't offer any consolation to those suffering.
Next we have Islamic thought, which generally focuses on the arbitrary nature of God, including acts of nature. This doctrine basically asserts that some force or power (God) predetermines these events of destruction, which could be provoked by man's disobedience. Muslim teachers view God as unapproachable for man and therefore offer very little comfort to distressed and hurting people.
So how does Christianity explain what happened? How do we receive comfort in such trying times? First, we must look at our premise and examine whether or not our starting point is valid. We often formulate an erroneous premise, which goes something like this: If God is good, He would not allow hurricanes to happen, if God is omnipotent He could destroy hurricanes—but hurricanes are not destroyed, therefore there is no good and omnipotent God.
The hidden assumption in this line of reasoning is that it is impossible for God to have a morally valid reason to permit a hurricane. But as finite beings it is impossible for us to know that God doesn't have such a reason.
How about the assumption that God could destroy the hurricane? The view here is that omnipotence means to be able to do anything. But omnipotence only means the ability to do what is logically possible to do. Can God create a stone so big He can't lift it? It's like the issue of evil in general: God cannot create free beings that cannot choose or fall. If God wants a world of freedom, then freedom to fall has to be a choice.
The last assumption is: the hurricane is not destroyed, so God is not good. The key thought here to consider is that the hurricane is not destroyed today and never will be! But it is possible that hurricanes are not destroyed yet we can find a promise throughout sacred Scripture that one day calamities of this nature will end.
We must remember that initially God did not create our world with these storms. God is not the creator of evil. Evil is not a thing, in and of itself. It is a corruption of something that was originally created good.
So what corrupted our world? In theology that is known as the Fall. In the Fall, man choose the lesser good over the higher good (God), and therefore we have a world that is struggling inside, groaning for peace, which causes turmoil and chaos and yes, even huge storms and other natural disasters.
The good news is that there is hope. Our Creator as revealed in Scripture is transcendent, He is approachable in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus understands suffering; He was innocent, and unjustly suffered a cruel death. He did that not only to redeem us eternally but to relate to us in our times of suffering. For the time being these storms will come and there will be loss of life and suffering, but there is coming a day when all that will cease. That is hope we can count on.
While we are here in an unstable world, put your trust in Jesus, who is an anchor during the storms of life. Give your heart to Him and allow His presence to comfort you, as He promised.