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Where is God in Natural Disasters?

"The mature Christian rarely experiences God. The mature Christian simply knows He's present." I recently attended a 1/2 day spiritual retreat and was struck by that comment the leader made. There have been moments in my life when I feel as if my number one craving is to experience more of God. I have witnessed him act in mighty and tangible ways and I long for those experiences again. Like a child whose daddy is throwing her in the air and catching her back in his arms cries out in delight, "Do it again, daddy, do it again!" I find myself praying those same words often. And when I don't see him act - which I translate into experience - I think he's being silent or not active in my life. 

The comment above has really caused me to stop and think. In 1 Kings 19 the radical Prophet Elijah finds himself in the presence of the living God on the same mountain top Moses stood before him also in the Lord's awesome presence. The elements swirling around him as well as with Moses. But God was not in the elements with Elijah contrary to what I would have expected and I think contrary to what Elijah wanted having just witnessed God in the elements before this. Check out 1 Kings 18 for that story. 

11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 

I live in California. I was here during the 7.2 Northridge quake - which some believed was the wrath of God on the porn industry prevalant in that area - in the early 1990's and have felt many earthquakes on a smaller scale since. We've had a handful recently as a result of an active fault line near the CA / Mexico boarder. I've experienced so many earthquakes now that I am no longer fearful of them but no matter how big the size and no matter the type of shake - some roll while others shake more violently - I almost always immediately end up praying. I know that God is in control of all creation and has the power and authority to cause his earth to move or to be still. 

But does this mean that earthquakes, not excluding other natural disasters, are God's design and possibly his wrath on a broken, sinful and fallen world and creation? 

One of the questions I get asked a lot from non-believer's is "how is it that a so-called loving and gracious, life-giving God allows such destruction and brutality among humanity?"  Have you also been asked that question or a variation of it? It's an honest, valid question. 

Janet Chismar of the Billy Graham Association recently interviewed pastor and author Erwin Lutzer on this very topic. The interview addresses the question where is God in natural disasters, what can be learned from them and do they point to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Lutzer also offers his own thought as to how we should respond to such questions about God's presence in the midst of chaos and disaster. I particularly liked the way he answered that point. He has this to say:

In a sense all death is the judgment of God because the soul that sins, it will die. All of death is really a judgment of God. What happens in natural disasters happens every day throughout the world. Tens of thousands of people die – often times in very drastic situations. The reason that we hear about natural disasters is because so many people die all at the same time. It is an intense occasion of what really is happening all the time.

But are they judgments of God? Yes in the sense that all death is the judgment of God, and in the sense that the earth is cursed. But what we need to understand about these judgments is that the righteous die along with the wicked.

Some people who knew Christ as Savior died in Haiti and in Katrina. We must be very clear that natural disasters do not distinguish between the righteous and those who do not know God.

Secondly, it’s not possible for us—we’re in no position—to look at one area of the world and say the reason it gets a natural disaster is because it is more wicked than some other area. For example, we’re not able to say that New Orleans is a more evil city than Las Vegas. That’s not within our ability to determine. It’s not for us to judge one area from another.

Have you been asked the question "Where is God is natural disasters?" How do you respond to those types of questions? How does Elijah's experience with God's presence challenge you or make you think differently about experiencing God in natural disasters? Do you believe God causes all natural disasters? How do you wrestle with this issue and what conclusions do you come to if any? Is expecting to experience God in a powerful, tangible way required of God in our lives or is it enough that he has promised to be with us always? Do you agree or disagree with the opening quote?




I believe that God has great plans for us. Also, we can't question his presence during the natural disasters because we are the root cause of those tragedy. - Steven Wyer

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I drink coffee, read books, and travel. I’ve been able to drink coffee and discuss books with friends all over the world, simply because someone built a bridge and I made it east of the Mississippi and beyond. For this reason, I love bridges.