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serving jesus christ the king

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Just last month it was New Zealand, now this week Japan suffered catastrophic damage at the hands of an earthquake and tsunami. Tens of thousands are dead or missing, entire towns have been wiped out, nuclear reactors are dangerously unstable.

One again we are saddened at the colossal loss of life; once again we extend our sympathy and our resources. And once again the perennial question raises its head: Why does God allow such events to happen?

Often suffering is preesented as an argument against God—how could there be a God when this happens? Yet when we read the Bible we see that suffering isn’t a surprise, but is part of God’s on-going judgment on, and wake-up call to, a world that refuses to listen to his more gentle voices—the voices of creation, conscience, Christians, preachers, God’s word, and even the voice of pleasure. If the Bible promised happiness peace and geological stability then we would have a case against God—but it speaks of quite the opposite.

That’s not to say that Japan was any more deserving than anywhere else—Ireland for example. The question isn’t why did it happen to New Zealand, Haiti or Japan, but why didn’t it happen to us?

We make many wrong assumptions: we assume that God owes us happiness when in fact he owes us judgment for we have lived on his planet, defying and ignoring him; we presume that mankind is innocent when in fact we are guilty. A more humble and biblical question is not, “How can God allow suffering”, but “Why does a holy God put up with us for so long and allow so much happiness in our lives?”

What if God had continually warned and spoken to mankind, urging them that there is more at stake than simply this short life, and that there is an eternity to be gained and a Hell to be avoided; and what if, despite his repeated warnings at increasing levels of volume, nobody listened; what would we expect him to do?

Each of these disasters is a mini reminder that God is serious when he says that he will judge sin, that he will not continue to let us plug our ears with the pleasures of life in order to drown out the warning voices.

Events such as this should not cause us to stand erect and proud, shaking our tiny fist at God, but cause us to fall to our knees in humility and ask for forgiveness for we too deserve judgment. That was Jesus’ response when asked about a similar situation:

“What about those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:4,5