Why does God allow natural disasters?

If God is truly in control, He must be able to control weather events and natural disasters. The question then becomes if God is truly good, how could He allow so many people to die as the result of something under His control?

We will never know all of the reasons behind a particular natural disaster, but the Bible does offer insight. First, natural disasters are "natural" in the sense that they are the result of the natural laws of our world. The God who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) designed the laws of nature, and those laws periodically lead to earthquakes, hurricanes, or tsunamis.

But can't God prevent natural disasters from taking place at certain times and locations? Of course He can and likely does at times. James 5:17-18 teaches, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit." How many storms and natural disasters have been averted due to the prayers of godly people? Only God knows.

The Bible also reveals that Jesus holds all of nature together (Colossians 1:16-17). Jesus exercised His power over the forces of nature during His time on earth. In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus calmed a storm upon the sea. The disciples' response was, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" Nature recognizes its Maker.

So, if God can prevent natural disasters, why doesn't He? There may be a variety of reasons. In some cases, God may use the forces of nature to focus our attention on Him and the greatness of His power (Mark 4:35-41). Historically, God has used certain natural disasters as a judgment on sin (Numbers 16:30-34). Still other natural disasters may occur because God plans to use the event to bring about a greater good (Romans 8:28).

One word of caution regarding our human evaluation of natural disasters: we must not claim to know for certain why a particular natural disaster has taken place. To speak of a specific earthquake or tsunami as a judgment from God on a particular sin is pure speculation. Christians are called to help those who suffer in difficult situations, using the opportunity to show Christ's love (Matthew 25:37-40).

Natural disasters are a tragic part of life on earth, but we cannot understand the "why" of their occurrence. When we do not have the answers, we depend on the power of our heavenly Father, knowing "that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

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