Q&A: Cause of Suffering and Disasters

Q&A: Cause of Suffering and Disasters

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Q. Why has the world experienced so many disasters lately? Are these events caused by God?
A. In the past months our planet has been wracked with numerous disasters, both natural and man-made. In the midst of human suffering it is not uncommon to question God, asking Him why we must suffer, or whether these disasters were actually inflicted by Him, possibly as a form of punishment.

For centuries the Church has discussed the problem of sin and evil in this world, trying to understand how a loving God could allow His creation to suffer, and while we may be able to develop theological conclusions, it's often hard to accept those conclusions when we are the ones touched by tragedy.

We ask the question, "Why?" and we expect an answer that seems logical within our realm of understanding. Logically, God does not cause natural disasters: they occur because there is a natural order in this world, an order that is seen in cause and effect. Our entire planet has been corrupted because of sin (Romans 8:22) and the result is that, at times, sin, disobedience, and corruption will hurt people. We are left wondering how this can be the response of a loving God!

The very shortest verse in the Bible is probably the one with an answer. John 11:35 says, "Jesus wept." Jesus arrived at the home of Mary and Martha after the death of their brother, Lazarus.

Jesus, even knowing that He could raise Lazarus from the dead, loved Mary and Martha with such depth that He identified with them in their time of pain and He himself was overcome with emotion.

The incarnate Christ-God, come to earth in human form, experienced our human emotions. Christ, then, took His experiences with Him to the Father, in the Trinity, so that truly, God understands and mourns with us. The great and mighty God of all creation can stand and weep with us in our moments of greatest pain. Remember what Jesus said to us in the Beatitudes? "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).

Human answers will never be enough for those who are suffering; the pain is simply too great. Our response is to follow the example of Christ, standing in solidarity with the suffering, willing to weep with those who are weeping.

Carla Sunberg is pastor of evangelism at Grace Point Church of the Nazarene in Fort Wayne, Indiana, adjunct professor, and Ph.D. candidate in historical theology.

Holiness Today, September/October 2010