Human loss from the powerful tornado that wreaked destruction on the South side of Oklahoma City is unimaginable. It’s frightening to observe the war-torn look of miles of landscape from just a few moments of natural disaster.
Many prayers were lifted to heaven before and during this nightmare. Many others continue to offer prayers for those affected by the devastation. I am praying for those affected and fro those on the front lines of rescue.
But, sooner or later, someone will ask how we should understand God in relation to such tragedies? How does God’s protection relate to natural disaster?
Is God in control when tornadoes cause mass destruction? Is the Creator in charge of the good and bad weather? Or, is “Mother Nature” randomly unleashing her powers? Who sends the winds and rain?
Jesus said “there will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7) and called it “the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:8). He also used weather metaphors of rain, floods and winds (see: Matthew 7:27).
Perhaps it seems that violent weather is simply part of life in a world turned against its Creator. Scripture pictures creation convulsing and groaning until God’s redemption is final when He restores the fullness of His glory.
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:19-23).
How should we understand God’s plan and power in relation to destructive displays of nature? Should those who love God expect to be protected from harm? Does God offer any guarantees of physical safety in a fallen world?
The fact is that each day dangers affect all areas of life: physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social, and ecological. We live in a world full of unsafe people, unsafe places and unsafe things. We have good reasons to be concerned about personal, local, national and international security. Yet God does not guarantee safety from harm in this life.
Examples are recorded in Scripture of God’s interventions for His people and of times when God did not deliver His servants from physical danger (Hebrews 11:35-38). Sometimes He chooses to intervene and sometimes He does not. Neither action should be measured by the worthiness of those who receive it (see Luke 13:1-5). As sinners, we deserve death (see: Romans 3:23;6:23). Living sinners experience undeserved extensions of life.
When God allows suffering, it is always an opportunity to trust Him (Psalm 23:4; 62:1-8; II Corinthians 1:3-9; Philippians 4:6-7) and to turn our focus toward eternity (II Corinthians 4:16-18). It is also a sober reminder of our physical separation from the full security of his presence (Revelation 21:3-5).
When our fellow-humans suffer, it’s an occasion for helping those in need as God’s instruments of physical relief and comfort (Matthew 25:34-40; II Corinthians 1:3-5). When thousands suffer from natural disasters, we can’t just say, “Oh well, that’s life in a fallen world.” Compassion requires more from us.
In the end, neither moral nor circumstantial evil will be victorious. God’s good purposes will ultimately prevail. Delays in the victory of God’s final purposes are displays of His patience and ongoing offer of salvation to a rebellious world (Romans 9:22-23).
Whatever we conclude about God’s involvement in bad weather, Scripture never depicts God as helplessly watching events beyond His control. God is absolutely sovereign. Yet God’s control is never presented in a way that diminishes the effects of living in a sin cursed work and the reality of human responsibility to God (see: Genesis 45:4-8;50:20).
And God’s sovereignity should never be used to convey that everything that happens in this life conforms to His moral will. This world does not reflect the good God originally intended for us nor the good that He has in store for us. Further, God grieves over this world in its current state.
We may confess with certainty that, “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
What can we expect from God?
He clearly promises to be with us in our trials sustaining us with grace and comforting us when we turn to Him. Even though we walk through the darkest valley, we will fear no evil, for God is with us” (Psalm 23:4).
God does not promise heaven on this earth. Many times life on earth mirrors more of hell than heaven. Heaven is the place God is preparing for us (John 14:1-3). He promises eternal life to all who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16-18).
God ultimately delivers his people from all evil. And, the security of God’s love is not in any way threatened by physical circumstances (see: John 10:27-28; Romans 8:35-39).
After suffering many trials, author Nancy Guthrie concluded, “I’ve come to see that God’s ‘protection plan’ is more vast and far-reaching than my shallow expectations once defined. I see now that God’s promises for protection go much deeper than protecting my body or my agenda or my plan for life. I can rest easy. I’m protected.”
With prayer for those who are suffering,