So what’s God’s point in natural disasters?

A natural disaster is usually called an “Act of God,” but rightly so, surely, because God’s the one who created sliding plates that cause massive earthquakes, and it’s he who made the weather systems that stir up hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. We might be partly to blame for lousy weather, true, but volcanoes? It was God who created our planet with a boiling centre and cracks that leak its contents to the surface with brutal results, not us.

And since we can’t stop volcanoes and earthquakes, many more thousands of people will die and suffer terrible injuries, and more children will become orphans. It’s not surprising then, that people come to a fork in the road with God after a major disaster. Do we take the road that rejects God because he doesn’t make any sense, or the other road that gives him a chance to answer for himself?

Does he answer for himself, though? Yes, in Romans 8:20 – “For the creation was subjected to frustration (or futility), not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.” According to that verse, it was God’s deliberate intent and design to make our planet an absurdity, a nonsensical paradox – a mixture of beauty and wonder on the one hand, but death and dreadful suffering on the other, the stark reality of which comes into sharp focus every time a major disaster hits. In seconds, all that we love about this world – home, work, happiness and success, etc. – are blown out of existence or buried in mud or rubble. It’s a grim reminder that life on this planet may have its good times but bottom line it’s cruelly fragile.

So why did God make it that way? “In hope that,” verse 21, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” The hope of human life, in other words, isn’t trying to create a wonderfully happy, pain-free existence out of whatever this planet has to offer. Our hope as humans is the freedom that comes with being an immortal child of God.

That’s not what most people think life is all about, though. They think it’s trying to make something of themselves with the tools at hand in this world – like hard work, education, religion, or graft, theft and violence. But the obvious problem with trying to make something of this life is that we die, and all our efforts are for nothing. And that’s life as God intended? Yes, to help us learn that there is no life truly worth living until we’re safely and eternally “children of God.”

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