When natural disasters strike some people lose their lives; others lose all but their lives; still others are (as we say) miraculously spared. But how does God’s protection relate to natural disaster? When hurricanes pound islands and mainlands–churning out devastating tornadoes and floods, is God in control?
Does God control the weather? Who sends the wind and rain? Why does one part of the world endure unbearable drought while another is devastated by floods? Why do some people get all the so-called “nice” weather? Is this simply “Mother Nature” randomly unleashing her powers? Or, is the Creator himself in charge of even the bad weather?
Jesus said “there will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7). He called this “the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:8). He also used metaphors of rains, floods and winds beating against a house until it fell (Matthew 7:27). Perhaps the realities of violent weather are simply part of life in a world turned against its Creator. Perhaps we are to blame for building cities and homes in the wrong places. Some say we are causing the environment to convulse against ourselves by disrespecting it.
But 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? Examples are recorded in scripture of God’s interventions for his people. Yet there are examples of those whom God did not deliver from physical danger (Hebrews 11:35-38). What should we expect? Does God offer any guarantees concerning physical safety in a fallen world?
Each day dangers affect all areas of life: physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social, and ecological. We live in a world full of unsafe people, places and things. We have good reasons to be concerned about our personal, local, national and international security. But God does not guarantee safety from harm in this life. 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). Sinners deserve death (Romans 3:23;6:23); Living sinners experience undeserved extensions of life.
When God allows suffering, it is an opportunity to trust Him (Psalm 62:8) and to turn our focus toward the eternal (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 offers an occasion for helping those in need (II Corinthians 1:3-5). When thousands suffer from homelessness, disease and death as a result of hurricanes and other disasters, we can’t just say, “Oh well, that’s life in a fallen world.” Compassion requires more from us.
Whatever we conclude about God’s involvement in the 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 human responsibility (Genesis 45:4-8;50:20).
In the end, evil (whether moral or circumstantial) will not be victorious. God’s good purposes will prevail. Any apparent delay in the victory of God’s purposes is due to His patience and offer of salvation to a rebellious world (Romans 9:22-23).
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. More importantly, he promises eternal life to all who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. God does not promise heaven on this earth. Many times life on earth mirrors hell more than heaven. But heaven is the place God is preparing for us (John 14:1-3).
In this way, 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 His ‘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.”