Where is God in all these disasters?
by John Madeley
An earthquake in Indonesia, a tsunami affecting Samoa and Tonga, a
typhoon hitting Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia, devastating
flooding in South India, severe drought in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Hundreds of people dead, tens of thousands displaced. Suffering on a
massive scale. It all happened in a week in late September this year.
What is going on? Where is God in all these disasters? Why doesn’t God
intervene to stop them? These are fair questions. The meaning of
suffering is difficult for us to answer, but what we do know is that
God gives a free will. In that sense God is vulnerable to our choices.
If we chose to exercise that free will in a way that is damaging for
others, and for ourselves, God does not stop us.
God gives us freedom, to choose the right or the wrong path. If we
choose the wrong path, it will grieve God’s heart, but God does not
stop us, does not act like some giant policeman in the sky. God the
Son died on the cross 2000 years because people decided he should die.
They exercised their free will. God did not stop them. The world is
not God’s puppet theatre.
God guides us to use our free will in accordance with his will for us.
But if we ignore it, if we turn away from God, if we abuse natural
resources, then consequences may follow.
We should stop calling disasters “natural disasters”. Severe floods
and droughts, hurricanes. typhoons and cyclones are occurring at twice
the rate of 40 years ago. They are not as natural as they seem, they
are more related to the way we live than they appear. Disasters are
increasingly related to climate change, to emissions of carbon, to the
world’s heavy use of energy. And that includes our use of energy.
A few years ago, Christian Aid published a report entitled “Unnatural
Disasters”. It said that rich nations such as Britain were condemning
poor countries to an "ever increasing number of overwhelming
Climate-related disasters, which kill thousands of people and cost
millions in terms of providing aid to stricken populations, are
manmade and should no longer be termed natural disasters, it said.
But what about earthquakes? 98% of people who die in earthquakes die
not because of the earthquake itself, but because buildings collapse
on them. They are related to poverty. On tsunamis, we know from the
2004 tsunami that here nature's barriers were intact - mangroves
forests along coast lines for example - there was far less damage. New
tourist hotels, shrimp farms etc had caused many to be removed.
Where is God is these disasters? God is with those who suffer. And God
is with us, calling us to be more responsible stewards of the
beautiful wold he created.
What can we do? At the very least we can support the 10/10 Initiative
- cut our emissions of carbon, our use of electricity, gas, oil, by
10% by the end of 2010. Cutting our emissions is vital if our
children, our grandchildren are to have a future. It’s vital if
children women and men in poor countries are to have a present. Where
is God in all this? God is working in us.
Based on a sermon given at Caversham Heights Methodist Church on 4th October.