By Rev.Wilfred Leeroy Kabs-Kanu, CPE Chaplain
The question I have been bombarded with all week by congregants , workmates and the like is : “If God is real and He is a good God, where was he when the Tsunami disaster hit East Asia last Sunday, levelling communities in 14 countries and killing over 150, 000 people including innocent children , women and old people ? ”
The disaster was so colossal and the pains it has caused so far-reaching that it will affect the world for years to come.It was so frightening that it has put fear in millions of people all over the world, with many fearing where next such a pitiful calamity will strike.
First of all, let me waste no time to drum home reality that God is really good. His nature, his manifestations, his doings, his dealings with man , everything about Him is good. God is so good that he can only be good. There is never any evil in his nature.His goodness reflects through everything he has created in his unimaginable grace and goodness. God is so good he desires only to do good. All the acts of God are nothing but the effulgence of His goodness ( Exodus 33:19). Psalms 104: 3, 107: 1 , 31 :19 and Nahum 1:7 are only few of the multitudes of Biblical passages attesting to the goodness of God.
God has yearning compassion for us all. If all of these truths are so, why does God not intervene in deadly plane crashes, shipwrecks, terrorist attacks, tornadoes ? Why did he allow 9/11 and most recently the tidal waves that have devastated Asia and will end up causing half-a million deaths , according to grim predictions already being made ?
God does intervene to avoid natural and other disasters. Every day, every moment, the goodness and mercy of God are demonstrated as he saves us from terrible car accidents , carbon monoxide poisoning, deadly diseases like AIDS, cardiac arrests , shootings and other perils. If we are honest, every one of us has at least one or two testimonies about how God intervened to save us from a perilious situation. But for the goodness and mercy of God, people would have been dying all day from human errors, carelessness, recklessness, evil and natural phenomena. God is everyday intervening to save his creation from dangers , sufferings and deaths. Even the Bible is replete with God’s intervention in the lives of his people.
But God does not always intervene to stop human suffering. God did not intervene when Jesus Christ was dying that most painful and horrenduous death on the Cross. And God perfected Jesus Christ through what he suffered ( Hebrews 2 : 10-18). The Bible says that it became Him to make the captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings. And Hebrews 5: 8 tells us that Christ learned obedience through sufferings. Through his sufferings, Jesus overcame the power of sin in human nature and made possible our resurrection from death to eternal life.
Suffering is part of human life. 1 Peter 2: 21-24 teaches us that Jesus Christ left us an example through what he suffered. We are told in that passage that , “For hereunto were ye called : because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example ; That ye should follow his steps “.
At times we do not understand why we are suffering, or why bad things happen to good people or why massive disasters occur, killing thousands and causing great suffering . It is often very difficult to reconcile God’s goodness with some happenings like 9/11 and the Tsunami catastrophy in Asia. Only our all-knowing God understands why they happened but , as the Word of God instructs us, the secret things belong to God ( Deutoronomy 29 : 29).We shall never know certain things until we die and unite with God.
Some people have said that for a country like Thailand, it was divine judgement, and they attribute the disaster to divine anger at the sexual boom in the country that fuels Thailand’s tourist industry. But though in the Old Testament, God judged wicked nations with calamities, we are today living in the Dispensation of Grace. Where sin abounds, the Grace of God abounds more. Besides Jesus Christ gave a powerful teaching on Divine Judgement. The Lord said of a man who was born blind that it did not happen because of sin on the part of anyone, but “That the works of God could be revealed in him ” (John 9:3). And the Lord gave them his own example : “Or those eighteen , upon whom the tower of Siloam fell , and slew them ;Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem ? I tell ye, nay; but, except ye repent , ye shall all likewise perish ” ( Luke 13 :2-5).Every man is under sin and God cannot punish one country more than the others because of their sin.
What is more, God does not preclude anybody from being a victim of time or chance. Disasters can affect us, if unfortunately we are at the wrong place at the wrong time. Ecclesiastes 9:11 clearly teaches that message that time and chance befall us all.
However, the Bible also teaches that the poor spiritual state of a nation can lead to blight, plagues and calamities , but these things are self-inflicted by the nations themselves when they shut God’s face and grace against themselves. God wants to bless them, but since they chose spiritual darkness, they laid themselves bare to the consequences which could be these blight and calamities.
But one fact that must never be compromised is that whatever happens on this earth must be permitted by God before they happen. God’s will permeates this earth , so much so that a sparrow does not fall to the ground without his will ( Matthew 10 : 29 ).
And these catastrophies should not be all too surprising to the man who is much attuned to God and awaiting the Promise. These disasters have been predicted by Christ thousands of years ago as fulfilling a divine purpose–They will graphically indicate that the End of the world is near.That we have these massive calamities is undeniable proof that the Bible is really the Word of God.The accurate fulfillment of Christ’s prophesies should endear us more to the Bible as the unerring word of God as our road map to Heaven. Christ said thousands of years ago that some of the signs of the end of this age would be nations coming against nations; kingdoms fighting kingdoms and there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes ( Matthew 24: 3-8). That Tsunami is fulfilling the prophesy of Christ that the coming of Jesus is near. It is a warning to those who have not put their lives together yet to do so now by committing their lives to Jesus Christ before it is too late. The disaster is indicating that God is real;The Bible is real;Jesus Christ is real and the promise of the second coming of Christ is real. But should divine purpose be accomplished on the back of such humonguous human suffering and catastrophy ?
Again, we must not forget three things. Firstly, we live in a physical world controlled by physical laws . There are physical results from physical abberations. Some things happen not because God did them but because they are the results of physical or natural abberations . If the crust of the eaerth underwater shifts, or to put it more bluntly , if there is a powerful earthquake underwater, naturally the physical consequence is a Tsunami. The magnitude of the earthquake, its depth amount of vertical motion of the sea floor and the velocity of such a motion determine the efficiency with which enery is transferred from the earth’s crust to the ocean water , leading to deadly tsumanis. Insurance companies err when they describe as “Acts of God ” such natural phenomena that were not caused by human error or recklessness . God made the earth but he did not go under water to pull the earth’s crust to cause the earthquake. The accident happened due to natural causes. One preacher once said of God that “His actions are often so interwoven with earthly and human factors that we do not know exactly what we can attribute directly to him ”
Secondly, we must understand the difference between God’s permissive will and causation. The fact that God has the power to stop a calamity from happening yet permitted it to happen does not mean that he caused it.
But most importantly, even though the Bible depicts God as sovereign , it is also important to note that that the same Bible portrays him as being involved in a conflict with a hostile power. God’s enemy is powerful too and he was once the chief of his angels and when sin was found in him and he was kicked out of Heaven, he did not lose his powers but came down to earth with them. Satan is described in the Bible as “The ruler of this world ” ( John 12:31, 14:30 , 16:11) . The Bible also calls him “The god of this age ” ( 2 Corinthians 4:4) and we learn from 1 John 5:19 that “The whole world lieth under the sway of the wicked one “. The devil does not only has authority over a vast realm , but he heads a kingdom of evil that battles the Kingdom of God.
We Christians know from Ephesians 6:12 that “We wrestle not against flesh and blood , but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world and againt spiritual wickedness in high places “. The kingdom of Evil is so pervasive and powerful that Satan and his agents are undoubtedly responsible for much of the evil and sufferings of this world. They are behind wars, injustices, persecutions, plagues , earthquakes and other forms of evil.
But why doesn’t God stop the Devil from committing all these calamities in this world ? God is sovereign but he does not bend anybody’s will .Satan will face his final judgement in the Lake of Fire .For now, he is “The god of this earth ” and God will not bend his will .God has a divine purpose for Satan and this will be fulfilled at the end of time. God has a divine will for everything. A thousand years is like one day to him. Satan will reap the whirlwind at the appropriate time. For now, our duty is to believe in the gospel and place our faith in the sacrifice that was wrought for us on the Cross of Calvary .There will be sufferings in this world but we must always comfort ourselves with the good news that this world is not our eternal dwelling .Jesus went to prepare a place for us , which will be our eternal home and in that place there will be no more earthquakes, tsunamis, accidents, deaths, weeping and sorrow.