In 1992 Stella Liebeck pulled through a McDonalds drive-through for a hot cup of coffee worth 2.9 million dollars. After spilling the coffee (which was served at the recommended temperature of 185 degrees fahrenheit) on her
hand, she went to court. She had a good lawyer who documented 700 cases of burns at McDonalds over a ten year period (with “millions served daily”). She had a sympathetic jury who found her only “20 percent at fault.” Stella became a household legend as a result, epitomizing a growing American mentality, “It’s somebody else’s fault.” Can you legitimately blame a gunsmith for an act of first-degree murder? Can you blame the automobile industry for traffic accidents? As ridiculous as those examples may sound to you, that reasoning seems perfectly logical to many people.
Even more distressing is the tendency for many to blame God for natural disasters. In the wake of the Asian tsunami of December, 2004, for example, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an article for The Progressive entitled, “God Owes Us An Apology.” In it she bitterly rants,
The Christian-style “God of love” should be particularly vulnerable to post-tsunami doubts. What kind of “love” inspired Him to wrest babies from their parents’ arms, the better to
drown them in a hurry? If He so loves us that He gave his only son, etc., why couldn’t he have held those tectonic plates in place at least until the kids were off the beach? . . .
If we are responsible for our actions, as most religions insist, then God should be, too, and I would propose, post-tsunami, an immediate withdrawal of prayer and other forms of flattery directed at a supposedly moral deity — at least until an apology is issued. . . .
If God cares about our puny species, then disasters prove that he is not all-powerful; and if he is all-powerful, then clearly he doesn’t give a damn.
Certainly it is heart-rending to watch or experience disasters such as the recent tsunamis. We
cry in collective anguish, “Why?” ·We ask hard questions about life and about God.
Is God responsible for natural disasters?
No. Blaming God for calamity is just like suing McDonalds for making hot coffee. What McDonalds made was good (for a non-Starbucks drinker), but it caused pain and suffering because of misuse and carelessness. Everything that God created is good, but because we have sinned against God, His creation has been marred. That there is anything good and beautiful left on Earth is a gracious gift of God to everyone as a reminder of who He is. Natural disasters exist because of the curse. Every time evil raises its ugly head, it is a reminder to us that we
desperately need God to fix the mess we are in.
Is God in control of natural disasters?
Yes. Scripture says God is in control of nature. According to Job 37:13, God “brings the clouds to punish men, or to water his earth and show his love.” Sometimes he uses natural disasters to punish evildoers as He did in the case of the Noahic flood or when He rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, Amos 3:6, speaking of God’s judgment, says “When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?” Natural disasters are consequences of the curse that weighs on all of us, yet God in His sovereignty can direct those forces as He
In addition, God can use disaster for beneficial purposes. For example, tragic events often break people out of their self-centered lifestyle. It helps them think about others and attempt to meet their needs. Many people stop to think about life and about God as well. Perhaps you are reading this because you have been wrestling with some of these questions in the wake of a disaster. That’s a good thing!
Are all those who perish in a disaster subject to God’s judgment?
No. It is not for us to assume that all who suffered in Hurricane Irma were under God’s judgment against the city of New Orleans. Many good Christians have experienced the same degree of suffering as anyone else. Yet Christians have an advantage: they are able to rise above the circumstances because they see beyond those sorrowful events. They have hope in the knowledge that God has provided the cure for the evil in this world through His Son, Jesus Christ. “Whoever believes in Him will not be ashamed” Romans 10:11.
So how should I respond to victims of natural disaster?
When Jesus Christ was on earth, he set an example of God’s approach toward hurting people. Jesus had compassion on all who were suffering and He healed many of them. When disaster strikes, we have an opportunity to follow in His steps. We should extend arms of care and concern toward those who are suffering. We should attempt to help meet their needs. Above all, we should share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ — the ultimate solution to and salvation from physical and spiritual death and disaster.