We have all been shocked and saddened by the devastation and loss of life in the Tsunami on December 26, 2004. Thinking Christians grapple with the question of how a loving God could allow such a thing to happen. We also want to understand how we can respond to this tragedy.
This page includes a few thoughts about the questions raised by a disaster of this magnitude. The sidebar contains links to further information about giving and praying.
A Biblical View of Suffering
Here are a few points to help us get our bearings in thinking about suffering from a biblical perspective. . .
- The world created by God was good.
- Evil entered the world due to human sin.
- God does not cause evil, although He allows it to occur.
- Sometimes God has a special reason for allowing suffering to occur.
- Many times it is difficult for us to know why suffering occurs.
- God is compassionate, and we too should have compassion on those who are suffering.
The world as originally created did not contain sickness, suffering, or death. Repeatedly in Genesis 1 it says “And God saw that it was good.” God is good, and everything He created was good.
Evil entered into the world through Adam’s sin. Much of the suffering in the world is directly linked to human sin. Even nature was affected by the “curse” which resulted from Adam’s sin (Gen. 3:17-18; Rom. 8:20-21).
God cannot sin, and He does not cause evil (James 1:13). But nothing can happen without His permission, and God does sometimes allow evil to occur (Job 1:9-12). In many cases we may not be able to understand why this happens, just as Job had no idea why he was suffering.
On some occasions God uses suffering to shape and refine us, and at other times He uses it to chastise us for our sin and lead us to repentance. In numerous places in the Old Testament we learn that God used suffering on a national level to chastise His people. But at other times suffering is simply the result of living in a fallen world.
In the Old Testament, we sometimes have a prophetic word which informs us that certain calamities which came upon Israel were a punishment for sin. But since we have no such revelation about the purpose of suffering in our time we dare not draw the conclusion that it is punishment for specific sins. Job’s friends assumed that his suffering was a punishment for sin, but they were wrong!
When the blind English poet John Milton was old and obscure, he was visited one day by Charles II, son of the king that the Puritans had beheaded. “Your blindness is a judgment from God for the part you took against my father,” said the king. Milton replied, “If I have lost my sight through God’s judgment, what can you say of your father who lost his head?”
Although we may sometimes have difficulty understanding why a disaster like this happens, we are very clear on what our response should be. God is loving and compassionate, and we should be too. When we come in the name of Christ and offer aid we give people a very tangible expression of God’s love for them.
[Imported from church web site on 9/1/05. Post given the date of composition of the original article.]