The Bible teaches that God created the world perfectly unbroken but humans decided to go their own way, which resulted in disaster. The Christian view is that suffering is caused, not by God, but by humans messing up. Human rebellion didn’t just affect human relationships, it created a brokenness in the whole universe.
Our planet needs events like hurricanes, earthquakes and flooding in order to function. Hurricanes bring rain to drought-prone areas and help balance the temperature in the air. Flooding brings nutrients to the soil and volcanic ash releases minerals. Without these, plant and food growth would be very difficult. Likewise, tectonic plate movement (which can lead to earthquakes) helps move nutrients around under the Earth’s crust and volcanoes help release pressure and excess gas. Without tectonic activity, we would have limited safe water and there would also be no mountains, no continents and no islands.
The Earth is actually much more stable and experiences fewer natural disasters than other planets. For instance, Venus contains numerous active volcanoes and Neptune recently experienced an extreme storm the size of Earth! Life as we know it would be impossible on any other planet.
Sadly, much of the damage caused by natural disasters is due to humans living in unstable areas: by fault lines, in towns infamous for destructive storms, or on coasts near dangerous water. Many who live in these areas are the poorest in society who cannot afford accommodation anywhere else. For example, in 1989, an earthquake in California killed 57 people, whereas a similar strength earthquake in Haiti in 2010 killed 230,000.
So why doesn’t God just put an end to poverty so people don’t need to live in these places? Christians believe that when God made people, he created them free to make their own choices. If I held a gun to your head and said I wouldn’t shoot you if you told me I was the best youth worker in the world, would you saying that be a free choice? Hardly! We are free to make bad choices. And bad choices have consequences, like poverty. If God stopped those consequences we wouldn’t be free, we’d be robots.
The Bible says God has offered us a way out of the pain we’ve caused: “God put the world square with himself through Jesus, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins” (2 Corinthians 5:19, The Message). And one day, there will be no more natural disasters. The Bible says: “God will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:3).
Do you like your freedom, even if it means bad things happen?
How would you feel if there were no bad consequences?
How can we help limit the damage of natural disasters?
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