Where is God when disasters happen?

by Matt Slick

Disasters are a part of nature. From hurricanes to earthquakes, our world sometimes turns against us. Instead of providing food, fresh air, and sunshine, it can throw devastation into our path and redirect our lives as we navigate its trauma.  No one is immune.

So, where is God in the middle of a hurricane that devastates islands, floods cities, and leaves death in its wake? Where is God during an earthquake that topples buildings and causes destruction everywhere? Where is God when fires sweep through forests and towns? Where is God when there are epidemics and disease?  Where is God when someone gets cancer? 

God is there. God is always there with you. 

But, we must remember that he owes us nothing. Though people like to shake their fist up in the air and yell at the Almighty because he does not bend to their will and save everyone from all suffering, it does not mean that he is not there. It does not mean that he does not care or that he does not grieve over our suffering.

We could equally ask, Where is God when neighbors help neighbors survive hurricanes? We could ask, Where is God during an earthquake when miracles occur, and people are found alive? Where is God during fires when people are rescued? Where is God during sickness when cures are found?

So why doesn't God step in and save people and stop all this mayhem? The answer is not easy. After all, we want God to stop the hurricane that devastates the land because it causes suffering. We also want him to heal sickness so that suffering might be eased. That makes sense. But what about the suffering caused by those who rebel against God and seek their selfish independence from him and commit crimes? Ought God to stop them as well? Should he stop their free will choices and prevent them from doing what they desire to do? Where do we draw the line with their free will? Who will say how much suffering is enough in the world and no more? Who's to say how much is enough?

The reason there is suffering in the world is simple.

The reason there is suffering in the world is because of the sin and rebellion in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit. Because Adam represented mankind and the world, when he sinned, sin entered the world through him (Romans 5:12). This sin has its effect not only on our bodies with the manifestation of sickness, but also in the world with the manifestations of hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, disease, and untold types of suffering. It is all because Adam chose to act independently of God.

I cannot help but wonder how many of those who complain and demand that God reduce suffering or stop it all together are also in the habit of acting independently of and in contradiction to him, and then when things don't go well, they complain that God is not acting properly. But who are they to say what must and must not be done by the Almighty? What standard do they have with which to judge him? They have nothing.

Loss of a child

It is one thing to ask questions and talk theology but, it is another to experience great suffering. I am not immune to the ravages of sin in the world.

Back in the early 90s my wife and I had a son named Jacob. He had a birth defect and it took his life. He died in our arms.  The pain was incredible.

Now, I could give you all kinds of details about the little ways that God manifested his grace to us during our great time of difficulty, but I will provide only a few. There was a nurse friend who happened to also be a grief counselor who came alongside us guiding us through the ordeal. She was even there to help us deliver our son Jacob. There was a church who supported us financially and another that paid for funeral costs. There was the blessing of our minister friend who gave the eulogy. There was the kindness of the people at the funeral who grieved with my wife and me, and through it, we could see their love and compassion.

Though the suffering was great, God was there. My wife and I sensed his presence the whole time. It's hard to describe, but he was just 'there.' We knew he was grieving with us and though I did not know why he allowed the birth defect to take our son, we knew that he had allowed it for a reason - and that was good enough for us. Don't get me wrong. It was very difficult, yet somehow he was there in the midst of our suffering and carried us through it. We turned our eyes to him and asked for his grace to be with us during our trial. He was. My wife and I turned to him many times and grew closer to him and each other. It was only because of our faith in him that we endured the loss as well as we did. By ourselves we had little emotional, medical, and financial resources to handle the situation. Yet, God provided through his sovereign grace and people around us.  He provided exactly what we needed.

God is always there

God is always there through the good and the bad - even if we don't feel his presence and see his direct hand. Nevertheless, we must remember to praise him in all things, even when things are difficult. It's easy to praise him when everything's going well only to complain quickly when something doesn't go right, and we forget the blessings he's bestowed upon us, those very blessings we have never deserved in the first place, but have received only by his grace.

God is there through all our disasters, and you can find him and see his compassionate and loving hand through it all with the eyes of faith that can only be found through the cross of Christ. It was there through the suffering of the Son of God that true love revealed itself. 

The blessing is always where you find it, and it can be found anywhere when your eyes are on Christ. He can easily open your heart to his compassion, his empathy, and his provision. And finally, it is often only through disasters that we truly open our hearts to him and seek him and are then blessed by him in ways that are more important than mere physical comfort. Sometimes, without those disasters, we ignore God and walk along in confidence of our own lives not needing him. Disasters, remind us of our mortality, our vulnerability, and our necessity to depend on him. So, where is God in a disaster? He is right there with you.




About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.