“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”
Why would a good God allow or, even, compel natural disasters to occur that cost people everything, even their own lives? How can God possibly be good in a world gone so catastrophically wrong? These are questions that have been asked by an incalculable amount of people since time began. I imagine that every single individual, at one point (or many points) in their life, have asked these questions. In the approach of Hurricane Irma to the Floridian Peninsula, my children of 9 and 6 years old asked those very questions.
I find it compelling that my kids, at such a young age, would ask philosophical questions that theologians and philosophers have been debating for ages. Honestly, it really keeps me on my apologetic toes. It’s an intriguing occurrence when I have to defend the faith in my own home with my small children. My son, particularly, has shown to be enormously vexed regarding these issues. He simply doesn’t understand how God could allow people to suffer, and he isn’t alone.
Before I share how I answered my children’s questions, let me just say that there are far more qualified men that can address this issue in a more detailed way than myself. Furthermore, I will not attempt to address all of the complexities regarding God’s omnipotence, goodness, or lack of both in this entry. That isn’t its purpose, and if I did the entry would be far too long.
In saying that, I offered my children 4 reasons that God would allow or compel something like Irma to occur:
This is evident with Egypt, Sodom and Gomorrah, Nineveh, Babylon, and even Israel throughout Old Testament history. God brings disaster upon nations and individuals (as exemplified in the New Testament with Ananias and Sapphira, Herod, and Elymas) as judgment for their continued rebellion and sin, and this can be direct or indirect.
This might be a reality difficult to swallow for many, but the truth is that God’s justice is tantamount to His goodness. God would not be good or love if He did not punish sin. He can do so in this life and will most definitely do so in the next. God is just, and He will repay everyone according to their deeds, whether good or evil (Ecc. 12:14; Rom 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:17; 2 Pet. 2:4-10).
While God will always judge people, and nations, because of their sin, before He does He usually shows an extended period of grace and mercy in order to allow the target of His judgment time to repent. Judgment throughout the Bible would usually come as a response to rebellion spanning over a significant amount of time. For example, with the story of Noah God gave the people of the earth the years before building the Ark and 120 years while Noah was building the Ark, which during that time the Bible tells us Noah was warning them (2 Pet. 2:5), before He released the floods; God gave the Canaanites at least 400 years to get their act together; and with Israel He gave them decades to respond and sent them numerous prophets that pleaded with them and gave them warning. Even now, post-Christ, the world has been given more than 2000 years to respond to the Gospel and, eventually, that time will run out as well.
Like the Biblical prophets God sent to warn of His coming wrath upon the sinful humanity, the “birth pains” of the earth are like prophets of God calling for the people of the world to be reconciled to Him in faith and repentance.
(3) THE END OF THE AGE
Quite simply, we were warned that natural disasters would take place in the end times. In Matthew 24, and its synoptic equivalents, Jesus warned us that natural disasters would come as a sign of the end of the age. He reveals to us in those passages that these are just the beginning of “birth pains” (Matt. 24:8) previously mentioned.
(4) IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME
Lastly, God allows events like natural disasters to occur so that we are reminded of our need for Him and the temporal worth of this world and what it offers us. This is the point that I would like to focus on and one which moved me before the hurricane hit Florida.
Upon the impending doom of Hurricane Irma, I learned that my rental house (a home in which I have invested much of my financial future) had ZERO insurance. Basically, if this storm decided to crank up its category 4 winds and blow my house up I would be completely liable for around $200,000. Now, to make a long story short, the mortgage company and insurance liaison I worked with dropped the ball somewhere and caused this to happen. I was a bit upset, to say the least, and, naturally, I became worried. What was I going to do if the worst case scenario happens? I could, quite literally, lose everything.
My reaction, after my ruffled feathers became less ruffled, was to pray and ask God for mercy. In the end, it is God who controlled the storm (Ps. 135:7) and my life and future are in His hands. There was absolutely nothing I could do but leave it to God, so I did.
In the midst of it all, while constantly praying, the Holy Spirit spoke to me Matthew 6:19-21:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In that moment I felt tremendous calm and I was reminded that even if I lost every material thing in this world I really wouldn’t have lost anything. Events like Irma begs us to ask ourselves where our treasure is. Do we have our heart set on the things in this world and on what this world offers, or is our heart consumed by a far greater Treasure that would constrain us to joyfully abandon all we have in order to obtain what is incomparable in value? Simply, do we love this world or do we love God?
The question of God’s goodness doesn’t rely upon what we gain or lose, or upon what evil can befall us, but upon where our treasure resides. If our treasure, and consequently our heart, is in the right place, then despite what happens to us we can boldly proclaim the goodness of God in Christ, who has redeemed us from the wrath to come and ushers us into an eternal kingdom that will never fade or be taken from us. We can lose all we have on this earth and still say with complete sincerity, as we behold the glory of Christ, “Oh, but look what I have gained!”
This is the perception that the saints of old maintained. As a result, they could endure the worst of trials, tortures, and the loss of all things and say, in complete sincerity, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him (Job 13:15).”
“But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”
~2 Corinthians 6:4-10~