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Natural disasters can leave people questioning God's goodness

Sep 8, 2017 By Sunny Jensen, For The Ranger

The cataclysmic natural disaster that struck Houston on Aug. 25 uprooted the lives of tens of thousands. Hurricane Harvey, a "Category 4," has left people stranded, homeless, fearing for their lives, and grieving the death of loved ones. It has also been estimated to be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. According to AccuWeather, the damage could be up to $106 billion. Events like this not only disrupt lives, they affect the nation asking God, "Why?" It is easy for people to accuse God for these disasters, and in an odd way, it pacifies those who feel the need to blame someone.

Natural disasters can lead many people to question God's goodness. People may ask why did God create our world with these occurring disasters? The answer is, He didn't. Genesis 1:1 tells us, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Everything God created was good. He created the whole universe incorporating within it the laws of nature. However, sin is the definitive source of the occurrence of natural disasters, just in the same way it is the cause of death, disease and suffering. After the fall of humanity, sin has had its effects on everything, in addition to the world we live in. Because of Adam and Eve's disobedience, God commanded three curses. The first was to the serpent, the second was to Eve, and the third was to the ground, (Genesis 3:17b-18) "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field." As a result, from the curse upon the earth, these natural disasters are the consequences from the laws of nature at work. Conflicting weather patterns colliding together cause the tornados, typhoons and hurricanes. The earth's plate structure is always shifting, which causes the earthquakes. Earthquakes under the ocean are the result of a tsunami. We can't blame the laws of nature on the nature of God.

It's true, God could absolutely prevent natural disasters, but just because He doesn't, it does not mean He is using or allowing them as a form of judgment and punishment toward us. Unless God obviously reveals it, as He did in the Bible, (i.e. the flood, the storm in the sea that rocked the ship Jonah was on, the rain of burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah) we should never presume any occurring natural or moral disaster upon this earth is from God. In the same way God allows people to commit horrendous crimes, He also allows the earth to mirror the consequences of sins' effect on creation.

Now, on the flip side: The Bible declares that Jesus holds everything together. (Colossians 1:15-17) "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." It's disturbing that these natural disasters are called "acts of God." It seems we forget that each new beautiful day we are blessed to enjoy are the real "acts of God." God appears to get the credit for the catastrophic events that occur, but where is the true credit due to Him when there has been peaceful weather over the centuries, time and time again? The solar eclipse on Aug. 21 was a magnificent display of His splendor and awesomeness! For many the eclipse of 2017 across the United States will be a once in a lifetime viewing. God in His glory and goodness displayed it right here in Riverton for us to enjoy! God's glory and beauty is revealed throughout all His creation. (Psalm 8:3) "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place." (Psalm 19:1) "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 33:6) "By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth."

It is tragic when natural disasters take human lives. It's much easier to understand the hows and whys of a natural disaster, but difficult to understand why God allows them. God's thoughts and ways are higher than ours and He has His reasons for allowing the experiences we don't understand. Nonetheless, no matter how dismal a circumstance may be, God uses every situation to generate good. (Romans 8:28) "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." These disasters tend to bring out the best in people. Tragedy makes humanity come together to help the afflicted as one nation, indivisible. People are recognized for their heroic and selfless acts. Everyone cares and there is no prejudice concerning which nationality is in need. There is only one race -- the human race. God also uses these situations to "wake us up," making us realize how precious life really is, and how in an instant life can be gone. This brings people closer to God by giving them a new spiritual perspective on life.

First and foremost, despite what the future has in store for us, we need to remember God is in control, everyday; He is gracious, loving, merciful and just. When things happen to us that we don't understand, instead of doubting the goodness of God, we need to place our faith in Him and trust in His plan. (Proverbs 3:5-6) "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." In the Book of Job, Job didn't understand why God allowed the tragedy he encountered in his life, yet Job knew God was good and continued to trust in Him. Our lesson from Job is that our reaction should be the same. Although we may not know why natural disasters happen, we can be assured, in the midst of our trials and tribulations, God is at work using all things, good or bad, together of His glory, and so we may have everlasting goodness. Whatever battles we may be going through, there is always someone else fighting a bigger battle. Please take time to say prayers for the victims, their families, and the helpers of Hurricane Harvey. Thank you and God bless you all!

Verse of the week: Luke 8:22-25 (Jesus calms a storm)

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