Disaster and Faith

 In Blog, Charles Cavanaugh

A friend and sister in Christ just posted that her family was being airlifted from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the most recent devastating hurricane. This after nearly losing one of her children and while recovering from another recent hurricane. By God’s grace, they left deprivation and chaos behind for the safety of family in the U.S. Others, Christians and not, will not fair so well. We have witnessed the incredible and frightening visitations of disaster over the past weeks, wondering why so many have suffered and so many others of us have not.

Disasters of the kind we have been witnessing recently always leave us with questions. Unbelievers find reasons to doubt the goodness, wisdom, and even the existence of the God of Scripture. How can a good God allow such things to happen to innocent people? If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He prevent such tragedies?

While many are more comfortable with believing in a capricious, erratic God or no God at all, we who are tethered to Scripture know that a Godless world is by no means a safer or more sensible place. The power of human reason to explain natural disaster, dismiss human sin, and ignore the reality of God does nothing to answer man’s hard questions or relieve his uncertainties. That is why humans often make a God of nature or fancy themselves as God. In any case, confusion reigns. In the wake of Christ’s birth, those in power did all they could to hold on to it and remove whatever or whomever was a threat. The order to kill all babies born at about the time Jesus was born seemed a senseless tragedy with unbearable and unexplainable consequences. Couldn’t God have, shouldn’t God have prevented it.

But this was not something that caught our God off guard. In fact, it was an event that our sovereign Lord predicted and planned for His purposes. What seem to be senseless acts and uncontrollable disasters do not leave God wringing his hands. Is it any surprise that the ways of God are mysterious and even disturbing to us? We rightly and understandably hurt when we watch our fellow human beings suffer. We want to help if we can and applaud those who do. Our emotions are stirred, and it is at this point that we often get in trouble. In a culture which lives life and makes decisions and evaluations based on feeling, we can feel right at home with a theology of feeling. But while we must not dismiss our feelings, we cannot be ruled by them. To do so is to court another kind of disaster; one with far greater and more serious consequences than hurricanes and earthquakes. For if we follow our feelings, we are sure to embrace a faulty view of God and life. Our God-given faith ties us securely to the reality of Christ and the rock of God’s unchanging word. We are sure to see many more disasters. In the book of Revelation, disaster upon disaster strikes, leaving earth’s inhabitants reeling in anger and pain. The unbelieving do not take these troubles as a call to repent of their sins and turn to Christ. To the contrary, they shake their fist at God and refuse to repent and acknowledge Him as Lord of all. But the faithful endure to the end, trusting God to work all things for their good and His glory.

The mark of those who know and follow Christ is their unshakeable faith in Him in spite of life’s disasters and the questions they bring. Whatever life brings, we are called to trust our unfailing God. Those of us who have not yet faced the tragedies we have witnessed may yet do so, but whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. “When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

Charles Cavanaugh

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