How do we explain Natural Disasters?

3 Mar 2012

Based on Genesis 7:7-24

Natural disasters are destructions, not by man, to vulnerable men (but additional suffering can sometimes result from the foolish acts of people).

There are many examples in the Bible. Reading through Genesis, the flood is the first we encounter. The details are recorded in Genesis 7:11 and Genesis 18,22. Why did God flood the earth? See Genesis 6:1-7. The world was wicked in God's sight, and He cleansed the it of sin. In Luke 17:26, Jesus says the world around us will be in the same state when he returns.

There are other examples in the Bible: 

  • Volcano: Genesis 19: Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed because of sin.
  • Disease: the ten plagues of Egypt meant deliverance by God from their slavery.
  • Earthquake: Korah, Dathan and Abiram dies ato crush rebellion against God (Numbers 16).
  • Famine: in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 16) when God brought a drought of two years after Elijah prayed.

So why does God allow suffering?

The Bible tells us we inhabit a world scarred by the consequences of Adam's disobedience (Genesis 3). As a consequence, no one is immune from suffering - we are all frail death-bound creatures. And no one is totally innocent themselves before God (Romans 3:23). It's important to understand, however, that natural disasters are not necessarily the result of any particular sin. Luke 13:4-5 records Jesus' explanation that when a tower fell and killed eighteen people, it was not because they were worse sinners than others. Rather, Jesus said that others who lived to hear the story should think differently about their life and recognise their need for God's deliverance.

But there are other reasons too:

  • God uses the weather for His purpose (Job 38:22-23) eg the tsunami in Japan, and humans can do nothing no prevent it.
  • He can try our faith, our trust, in Him (James 1:2-3). Jesus suffered too (1 Peter 4:1-2).
  • In Job we see an account of personal suffering. He lost everything and God's answer was to demonstrate His creative power. Ultimately everything was restored to him (Job 42:1-6). Job came to understand that he may not always understand why God acted as He did, but to recognise that He knew best as the Creator of all things.

Luke 21:25-26 suggests natural disasters will herald the coming of the Lord and Zechariah 14:1-6 is the knock-on effect.

Does the Bible teach eternal suffering? No. Revelation 21:1-4 and Isaiah 25:8 give pictures of the future when suffering will be removed - in God's Kingdom here on earth. The message of the Bible is clear. To escape the sufferings of this life, from whatever cause, we need to think differently and turn our ways to God (Luke 13:4-5). Obedience to God's commands is essential for salvation (Romans 15:18, Mark 16:14-16).