Why does God allow natural disasters?
Where is God when disaster strikes?
Every year there is a big story on the news about a terrible storm, earthquake, wildfire, or flood that has claimed many lives. Inevitably, one very difficult question seems to come to mind—why does God let this happen?
After all, shouldn’t God want to keep people safe? Doesn’t He have the power to do so?
Sure, we can understand why bad things happen as a result of people’s choices. And some things in nature, like pollution, are also the result of people’s bad decisions.
However, natural disasters are often called “acts of God” precisely because people don’t have control over them. How do we explain these? Let’s begin by discussing something called natural laws.
Why we need natural laws
What are natural laws and why are they important?
1. Natural laws are those rules of order that govern creation.
Natural laws make cause and effect in the world relatively predictable. For instance, if you drop a bowling ball on your foot, these laws—such as the law of gravity—are the reason you know it will definitely hurt and not feel good. If we did not have these laws, we would not know how nature would react when we choose to act in a certain way. This becomes a foundation for making our everyday decisions. We get out of bed in the morning, put on clothes according to the weather outside, and go about our day normally, all because we are able to predict that our decisions to act in the physical world will result in the way we expect.
2. Natural laws help make right and wrong actions possible.
God desires that people have free will, giving us the ability to choose between right and wrong. Think about this—when someone pulls the trigger of a gun to commit murder, that action is considered bad because that person knows what will happen when the trigger is pulled. Likewise, a person who jumps in front of the bullet commits a good action because he knows that stopping the bullet will result in saving another person’s life. Without these laws, knowing what would happen when someone pulls a trigger or jumps in front of a bullet would be impossible. The world would be in chaos and no one would ultimately be responsible for the consequences of their own actions.
3. Natural disasters are the result of these natural laws.
There is nothing “evil” about a hurricane, flood, or storm. These are just part of the forces that make up the natural order. In fact, they serve very important roles in our environment. For example, tropical storms provide an important source of water for entire regions. We only call them “disasters” when people are in their path.
So, the question is ... why doesn’t God step in and protect people who are facing these natural disasters.
4 reasons God may choose not to intervene
First of all, maybe He does in some instances and we just don’t realize it.
Even so, here are at least four good reasons that God would not just step in and “save” people from natural disasters:
1. God may not want to manipulate natural forces.
This is the primary reason God may not intervene. For God to step in and stop every natural disaster, He would have to manipulate natural forces. If this happens, how could we learn to be cautious of these natural occurrences in the future? Moreover, sometimes moving a flood, redirecting a hurricane, or stopping a wildfire could result in a domino effect in nature that would affect many more people negatively.
2. Some natural disasters are a form of judgment.
Noah’s great flood was not just a natural event; it was also a form of God’s judgment on wicked people (Genesis 6:11-13). Let’s not forget that God is overseeing all the events in His world and He alone sees the big picture.
A word of caution though - we shouldn’t think about natural disasters as always, or even usually, being a judgment from God though. Instead, we ought to simply be aware that God has chosen to use these natural events as a form of judgment at times in His creation.
3. God uses natural disasters to teach us important lessons.
On the whole, people do not like to face the fact that everyone’s life will one day end. Difficult circumstances remind us all that life is fragile and fleeting. When we are reminded that our lives are temporary, we are forced to consider our relationship to eternity, the Lord, and the Gospel. This is part of what Jesus was getting at in Luke 13:1-5. Here, Jesus explains that rather than trying to calculate whether or not a disaster occurs as a result of one’s guilt, the most important question we must ask is whether or not we have repented and followed the Lord.
4. Natural disasters give us an opportunity to serve others.
Disaster relief gives us opportunities to serve one another sacrificially in a way that we might not have had otherwise. It is through serving one another that Jesus teaches Christians how to be more Christ-like. Through serving one another, we find that the Lord brings good things from even difficult circumstances.
How should we respond?
By relying on Jesus’ teaching, we are like the wise man who built his house on the solid rock instead of the sand (Matthew 7:24-27). When the storms come, we find that our faith keeps us grounded in truth. All of these things can be seen in light of the riches of eternity.
John tells us that eventually the old heaven and old earth will pass away as the Kingdom of God is fully realized in a place where there is no suffering, crying, or death (Revelation 21:1-8). For Christians, this means we will be able to live how God always intended. That is, we will find ourselves living in the perfect presence of the Lord, a place without any form of despair and a place therefore void of any form of disaster.