Among the questions that might arise is, “If we have an all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful God, then why didn’t God prevent the suffering of innocent people and stop the storm?” This question is one of the oldest, and most struggled with, in the history of the Church.
Let’s start in the Old Testament with the story of Job, a righteous man who is beset with storms and disasters. He loses everything, including his family, possessions and health. Job turns to God and pleads for justice and answers. When God responds out of the storm, it is not what Job, or most people, would expect to hear.
God reminds Job that Job is not God. God explains that Job does not have divine wisdom or divine power. God clarifies that Job is not capable of understanding why God does things the way God does. The blessing in God’s answer is that actually it is the only true response when we ask the difficult question, “Why did God let this happen?” The answer is, “We don’t know.” We are not God. We do not have divine wisdom or power, but we do know that God is good. We are limited, but God’s love for us stretches far beyond this life and far beyond what we are able to understand.
We see an example of that love in the New Testament story of Jesus calming the storm. Jesus did not create the storm to test the disciples in the boat. Instead, scripture shows that Jesus uses the experience of the storm to demonstrate that God and God’s love is greater than any storm of nature. Jesus challenges the disciples to lean into him when afraid or devastated. Natural disasters can help us to see our dependence on God and clarify what is really important to us.
As we see in Job’s exchange with God, God always welcomes you to share what is in your heart. Your emotions, no matter how strong, can always be brought before God. When we feel anger, pain and confusion following a disaster, it is natural to ask the question, “Why doesn’t God do something to bring peace, to aid those affected, and to comfort those who have lost so much?” I would assert that God did do something — God brought peace after the storm and aided with the healing during the recovery efforts.
God created you. God is responding to the storm in your prayers, charitable actions and advocacy for those who find themselves voiceless. People will show up to church for comfort after a natural disaster — are you there to welcome them, to listen to their stories, to pray with them? Instead of watching the news and shaking your head, could you answer the call and lead a drive for needed supplies at your workplace or church?
God is not indifferent to the pain that we are experiencing. God doesn’t turn his back on the people he loves. God will be with them for all eternity. God’s love is not about control and limitations. Instead, God’s love is about freedom. Jesus’ death on the cross shows us that destruction, loss and even death are not the last words in salvation history. The last word, given to us by Christ through resurrection, is hope.
In times of trial, we often have to seek out hope. Hope is there. Hope exists in the first responders — in the extraordinary courage they show in the face of danger. Hope exists in the generosity of people who freely give money and belongings when they hear that people are in need. Hope also exists in the way people are willing to treat the stranger they have never met with extraordinary kindness, as if they were members of their own immediate family. These moments of hope stem from God.