Disasters and the Christian response
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the fires in the western states, remind us that we live in a world profoundly disrupted by our fall into sin. Though we derive so much blessing from the bounty and beauty of our planet, nevertheless at times the creation itself seems to take a hostile turn against us. And the result is human misery and suffering.
As Christians how do we think about and respond to these kinds of catastrophic events?
First, we show the compassion of Christ to those who suffer loss. For most this simply means praying for those whose lives have been upended. Many other believers will demonstrate Jesus’ care for the hurting in more visible ways, by helping with relief efforts and counseling the grief-stricken. I am glad our denomination, though small, is already calling for volunteers to serve in Texas to help rebuild houses and lives.
Second, we acknowledge the sovereignty of God behind all “natural” disasters. An almighty and wise God rules over his creation, even over catastrophic storms and destructive fires. We cannot judge God for his works, for he is God and we are his creatures. At the same time, because God is both sovereign and good, we trust he has gracious purposes even in ordaining such disasters. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and kind in all his works” (Psalm 145:17). May he not use such events to soften the hearts of many, to remind them of life’s fragility, their mortality, and the need they have of forgiveness and salvation?
And so, third, we humble ourselves before God. When people asked Jesus about a different kind of tragedy that some Galileans suffered, he said to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). If God has spared us suffering from a hurricane or fire, it’s not because we are better than anyone else. And so let us examine our own hearts and come humbly before Christ, thanking him for the good he has shown us and asking him for grace to be more faithful in worshiping and serving him.
With both tears for the afflicted and gratitude to God for his grace to us in Christ, we Christians can point others to the source of true hope in a world so devastated by the consequences of sin.
On Sunday morning I preached from Luke 4:16-30, in which Jesus is nearly killed by the people of his hometown, Nazareth. From that time on, Jesus had no home on earth (Luke 9:58). But he didn’t come into our world to make a home for himself. Rather, he came to make us fit to live with him in his eternal dwellings in heaven. And though he had no home in our world during his earthly ministry, he has many homes on earth now: he promises that when we believe in him and keep his commandments, both he and his Heavenly Father come to make their home in our hearts (John 14:23).
Soli Deo Gloria!