Natural disasters occur in the world because of the curse God placed on all creation after Adam sinned (Gen 3). Natural disasters, apart from God’s direct implementation, occur naturally. Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, fires, droughts, volcanic eruptions, etc. may have devastating debilitative effects on man (Mt 24:7). Man-made disasters, i.e. wars, economic failures, abuse of natural resources, political intrigue, sociological upheavals, and cultural denigration, generate inhumane ungodliness (Mt 24:3-6).
Individual decisions fare no better as mankind becomes abusers of themselves (Rom 1:21-22, 24, 26, 28). Selfishness, pride, divorce, defrauding, cheating, lack of forgiveness, idolatry, adultery, etc., are sufficient to create havoc on what could otherwise be a God-ordered life (1 Pet 1:15-16). Apart from the natural effects of sin in the world, God, at times convenient to and understood only by Him, brings disaster upon people great and small (Job). He chastises those whom He loves and punishes those he hates (Heb 12:3-11). God is not prevented from allowing or bringing tragedy in the lives of the ones He loves (Jer 11:22; 14:12; 25:29; 32:42; 35:17). Yet, in all cases, He desires that all men would repent of their wicked ways and turn to Him, for God takes no pleasure in death, even of the ungodly (Eze 18:30-32).
In times of trouble and hardship, believers may question God (Ps 13:1). They may question His character: His providential care (Mt 6:25-34), His ability to cause or prevent crisis (2 Pet 3:1-7), whether He listens to their prayers (Job 30:20; Hab 1:2). God does hear and provide help (2 Chr 20:9) but He does not heed the voice of sinners (Eze 8:17-18; Mic 3:4). Trials in life, particularly on the scale of an international pandemic, may create confusion, instability, emotional intensity, heightened vulnerability, fear, anger, guilt, confusion and grief. These are experiences common to all during times of trouble. Without answers, even the believer’s faith may become suspect in his own mind. The more intense the experience, the greater the prospect for change. Change is uncomfortable. In an unsettled environment people need to hear the Word of God that they may call on Him (Rom 10:14).
During a crisis, we have opportunity to bring hope and encouragement to one another, for we know how things will progress in God’s timing (1 Th 4:14-18). We have confidence that God’s plan will not be thwarted.We believers put our trust in God and walk by faith, not by sight, for our salvation (2 Cor 5:7). We trust Him with our souls. We trust Him with our lives as well (Php 1:21). We need not fear the circumstances around us (Heb 13:6). God has given us a spirit of power, love, and sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). We have confidence in Him. Our confidence deepens our faith which is manifest in our obedience (Heb 11:1), for God is not pleased apart from faith (Heb 11:6). So, we lean on God’s ways (Isa 55:8-9), not trusting our own (Pr 3:5-6). We walk confidently knowing our faith will be tried to produce patience, and patience brings us to maturity (Jas 1:3-4). In Christ Jesus, we need not fear (Lk 12:4-7).
What God has accomplished: God sent His Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16). Jesus was obedient to the Father that the Father’s will would be accomplished in him (Php 2:8-11). In Christ Jesus, the Father was reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor 5:19). Our Father desires that none perish, enter hell, because of their sin (2 Pet 3:9). He desires a people dedicated to Himself (Titus 2:14; 1 Pet 2:9).
What He is doing: God has given the ministry of reconciliation, through the gospel, to believers (2 Cor 5:18-19). The love of Christ prompts us to share the gospel (2 Cor 5:14-15). The good news is that Christ died, was buried, and rose again (1 Cor 15:1-4). The church is the vehicle God uses to transmit His message of hope.
What He promises for the future: One day we will be with Christ and will be like Him (1 Cor 15:51-54). Through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross, the enemy of death is swallowed up in victory and its sting is gone. We will be received by our Lord and honor Him (Rev 19:6-10). He will grant us a heavenly reward (Col 3:23-24). At the final judgement, God will judge all according to His accounting of their lives (Rev 20:11-15). Those found not to have trusted Christ Jesus for salvation of their souls will be cast into the eternal lake of fire. Those whose names are written in His book will enter the new heavens and new earth and reside in the New Jerusalem in the presence of God forever (Rev 21:26-27).
Our hope rests outside the things of this world (Heb 11:1). Our hope is in the Holy God Almighty (Lev 20:26), the creator of the heavens and earth (Gen 1:1), the one who judges rightly in all things (2 Tim 4:8).
Pastor Rick Weber