Disasters and Suffering

Big Questions Section

This section includes answers to some big questions. We don’t claim to have the answers (only God has all the answers!) But we hope and pray this helps you and the young people you work with. These are not definitive and you may way disagree or be able to add more, but they hopefully act as an inspiration or starting point.

There are 18 questions answered here. We must credit “When Skeptics Ask” by Norman Geisler and “Cosmic Codes” by Chuck Missler, “It makes sense” by Stephen Gaukroger and the website http://carm.org/ (Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry). We’ve tried our very best to give easy answers to the questions and then more advanced / detailed answers and even further study.

Why do natural disasters happen?

Easy Answer

Christians believe that in the beginning God created a perfect world. But man and woman sinned against God. This means they did wrong. God wasn’t a dictator. He allowed them to choose right and wrong. But because man and woman did wrong, death was introduced into this perfect world. Since then, the Bible tells us that creation is groaning and is dying. So many times things happen because this world is dying. One day Jesus will come back and the whole world and heaven will be made perfect once again – this time it will stay that way forever! But also, people do evil and foolish things. These mean that things happen. So sometimes people don’t maintain bridges properly and so the bridge collapses. This isn’t God’s fault, it’s man’s fault. People often ask where God was when something bad happens. God was there and he was hurting. Often he sends his people in to help – as he did after Hurricane Katrina in America. But many times God protects us from bad things – we may not even realise it. It’s important to know that God is good. But because of sin, things happen that are bad.

Advanced Answer

In the beginning, God created the world. He looked at it and said ‘it is good’ ! But man and woman did wrong and the world changed (see Point 4 for more on this). Instead of the world being a perfect place where man and woman related to God, the relationship with God was broken, death was introduced to the human race and the creation also started to die and fall apart. Scientists called this the law of ‘entropy’ – the truth that everything moves from order to decay. So for example, if we leave something and don’t look after it, the thing decays and gets worse… For example a pond in the back garden which will get all clogged up if we don’t tend to it and clean it. 

The same is true of the world. Ever since the day that man and woman sinned, the world has been decaying and mankind has been doing things that don’t help. The earth is actually incredible as God has made it to keep balancing and re-balancing itself. But there is a limit to this. The Bible book of Romans tells us that God’s creation is actually ‘groaning’ and longing for the day when Jesus comes back to the earth and makes everything new. So this is one reason – the fact that the earth is slowly crumbling and slowly getting worse. It also explains partly why there are things like volcanoes and earthquakes as the core of the earth shakes and strains, creaks and groans, bangs and breaks.

In the Bible there is an event recorded in Luke when a tower collapsed in a place called Siloam. People were killed. But they weren’t all ‘bad’ people who were killed, they were all different kinds of people. Jesus was talking to the crowd around him, recounting the incident and said, “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’” So Jesus was saying that bad things happen to everyone. Bad things happen in this world that has rejected God and this world that is ‘passing away’ (according to the Bible in 1 John 2.17). That is why Jesus encourages us to do things that last in eternity – like serving God.

Other times things happen because man has done things that are wrong or hasn’t followed the rules, deliberately or accidentally. On TV there’s a programme called ‘Aircraft Investigation’ where they look at plane crashes. Sometimes it’s an accident, sometimes it happens because someone hasn’t done their job properly or hasn’t followed the rules. Mines and buildings sometimes collapse because people have tried to save money and not follow safety procedures. But this also applies to natural disasters. In many coastal places, man has removed the mangrove swamp / tree areas right on the coast. But these act as a God-created natural defence to flooding and even tsunamis. But because man has built on these areas, the natural defences have been destroyed and so nature ends up killing people when it shouldn’t have if we were more thoughtful. People also build houses on areas called ‘flood plains’ (where flooding naturally occurs) and then they wonder why the houses get flooded!

The Bible also talks about natural and other man-made disasters. In the book of the Bible of Luke chapter 13 we read Jesus speaking about a time when a tower in a place called Siloam collapsed, “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Another reason is found in the Bible which talks about the ‘end times’ of the world when there will be natural disasters like earthquakes, famines and great waters (Luke 21 & Matthew 24). These will increase – as some people (not all) believe they are in recent years. 

Often people ask ‘where was God?’ when disasters happen. The question could easily be turned around, with God asking people the same question in a different way, ‘Where am I in your lives, in your nations?’ Most countries do what they can to deny the existence of God. They cut him out of every area of society – as they are in places like the UK and the USA at every level. They then ask where God was when bad things happen. But God is right there and is as broken hearted as anyone. When his friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept. When people die, Jesus weeps because he doesn’t want anyone to die not knowing Him. 

But another question is this: when good things happen (like when the Plane crashed on the Hudson River in New York and everyone lived), the same people never say, ‘That was God’. People are so quick to ask where God was when bad things happen, but never want to credit God when good things happen. God is always here. The Bible says there is nowhere we can go to escape God. But he has given us all a choice to reject him (or choose him). If we reject God, he is a gentleman and will allow us to go our own way with all the consequences that happen.