When natural disasters strike, some 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? Is God in control when hurricanes pound islands and mainlands – churning out devastating tornadoes and floods?
Does God actually 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 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. Scripture pictures creation itself as convulsing 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 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, unsafe places and unsafe things. We have good reasons to be concerned about our 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). 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 23:4; 62:1-8; II Corinthians 1:3-9; Philippians 4:6-7) 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’s an occasion for helping those in need as God’s instruments of comfort (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 when there are ways to help.
In the end, evil (whether moral or circumstantial) will not be victorious. God’s good final 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).
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).
But this understanding of God’s sovereign will should not be used to convey that everything that happens in this life conforms to His moral will. Further, God grieves over this world in its current state as it does not reflect the good He originally intended for us nor the good that He finally has in store for us. This is why we can say, “I consider 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 I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
More importantly, He promises eternal life to all who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16-18). God does not promise heaven on this earth. Many times life on earth mirrors hell more than heaven. Heaven is the place God is preparing for us (John 14:1-3).
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.”