A single event, not man made, that yields a six-figure casualty
count must happen but once in a lifetime. The first response to
any disaster must always be of compassion, of prayer, and of giving
to ensure as much help gets to those who need it as soon as possible.
There is, of course, a secondary reaction. It is the asking of
'How can a good God allow such a thing to happen?'
It is asked by observers and victims alike. With such an unanswered,
or badly answered question do people turn from their faith, shrink
further into agnosticism, or strengthen their already atheistic
point of view. It's a question that has been asked from the earliest
age, and the topic on which many books have been written. It is
a very natural question. But it is an arrogant question, and when
asking this question the nature of sin is revealed. Therefore
a correct treatment of this question should lead to an opportunity
to testify your own faith, to share the gospel, and to strengthen
the faith of others. I'll try and demonstrate this, but first
Four days before that earthquake rocked the sea by Indonesia
on December 26th, I published two images - 199
The first was on
a subject of the perfectness of creation before the fall, and
the second on a topic of judgment - which used the words 'great
earthquake'. I published them together as I considered them an
interesting contrast, and - prudishly perhaps - I did not want
image 199 to be on the front
page. As the enormity of the event unfolded and as the casualty
figures continued to increase I became more and more uneasy with
keeping image 200 on the front
page. Hence image 201 - words
of comfort from Jesus rather than of judgment from Revelation.
I mention this as the three images help tell a story - even through
they contrast so greatly with each other, and they (along with
some others) help illustrate what I will now try and demonstrate.
Consider the following:
- God is good and
- 'Why do
you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good–except
God alone.' Luke 18:19.
- He is the
Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
- All that God made
was good: (see also 199)
- God saw
all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis
- Mankind is very
far from being good and perfect - no-one is good, we are corrupt,
looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there
are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned
away, they have together become corrupt; there is no-one
who does good, not even one." Psalm 53:2-3.
of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous
acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf
and like the wind our sins sweep us away." Isaiah
- For whoever
keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is
guilty of breaking all of it. James 2:10.
- The earth is defiled
and cursed because of us:
- The earth
is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws,
violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.
is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will
eat of it all the days of your life. Genesis 3:17. (See
- We all die because
of our sins, and we will all come before God to be judged (see
- For the
wages of sin is death... Romans 6:23.
- For we
must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that
each one may receive what is due him for the things done
while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians
Anything good and perfect cannot accept imperfection, else it
would no longer be good and perfect. So how does God, who is good
and perfect, deal with imperfection? I only see two real options
- utterly destroy that which is imperfect, or first see if what
is imperfect can be made perfect. The fact that we are here means
it is not the former, hence the latter must be in progress.
This then leads to one treatment for THE question: It
is an arrogant question as we are imperfect, and who are we to
question the goodness of God? God could have had nothing to do
with us and have utterly destroyed us. But we are here. Therefore
it is for us to be grateful and give thanks to Gods great mercy
that we are still alive.
Now I find this approach a little cold, and it certainly does
not console nor extend compassion or comfort to one who is suffering.
But it does correct a basic framework of understanding for the
intellectual observer: in the same way that planets go around
the sun and not the earth, the concept of what is good revolves
around God, not man. This then, is what I mean when the nature
of sin is revealed in the asking of this question - it presumes
man is greater than God, that God should serve man. Ultimately
we are not qualified to even ask the question because we do not
and cannot understand what goodness really is. So we should concern
ourselves less with the qualities of God, and instead concern
ourselves more with the state of our own relationship with Him.
Here is the Biblical support for this approach. (Note that the
book of Job has a lot to say about suffering!):
- Jesus answered,
Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than
all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell
you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or
those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them
- do you think they were more guilty than all the others living
in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too
will all perish. Luke 13:2-5.
- Then the LORD
answered Job out of the storm. He said: "Who is this that
darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Job 38:1-2.
- He has made
everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in
the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done
from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11. (See 95.)
- "Woe to
him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd
among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the
potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'He has no
- The LORD said
to Job: "Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct
him? Let him who accuses God answer him!"
Then Job answered the LORD : "I am unworthy-how can I reply
to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have
no answer- twice, but I will say no more."
Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm: "Brace yourself
like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. "Would
you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God's, and can your voice thunder like
his? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe
yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at every proud man and bring him low, look at every proud
man and humble him, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury
them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave.
Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can
save you." Job 40:1-14.
- Then Job replied
to the LORD : "I know that you can do all things; no plan
of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures
my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did
not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. "You
said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and
you shall answer me.' My ears had heard of you but now my eyes
have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust
and ashes." Job 42:1-6.
There is another treatment for THE question that I think is more
compassionate and it relates to the imperfect being made perfect.
As God has not chosen to utterly destroy us, he is seeking to
make perfection out of imperfection. Consider this - Christianity
speaks of God becoming a man to suffer and to die for the benefit
of mankind. (See also 137.)
he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows..."
- "Yet it
was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer..."
- "But he
was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his
wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5. (See 5.)
- "For he
bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
- "The Son
of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified
and on the third day be raised again." Luke 24:7
- From that time
on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to
Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders,
chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed
and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21.
- "He said
to them, 'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe
all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to
suffer these things and then enter his glory?' And beginning
with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was
said in the scriptures concerning himself."
So here is the second treatment to THE question - ask this: Why
then did God allow his own Son to suffer and die?
- "For God
so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever
believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For
God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17. (See
This approach then has two consequences. First it leads to our
own personal reunion with God - and our imperfectness being made
perfect through Jesus.
if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe
in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be
saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified,
and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."
the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23. (See 175.)
there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set
me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2.
- For God did
not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through
our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ,.." Romans 5:1.
Second it leads to the understanding that God is with us in our
suffering. Here then is comfort:
- I remember
my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet
this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the
LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never
fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will
wait for him." Lamentations 3:19-24.
- My comfort
in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.
- Have mercy
on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster
has passed. Psalm 57:1.
- I consider
that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the
glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18.
- Trouble and
distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight.
Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that
I may live. Psalm 119:143-144.
- Have no fear
of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot
from being snared. Proverbs 3:25-26.
- I have
told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In
this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome
the world. John 16:33. (See 201).
Finally I do not presume myself to be qualified to comfort someone
who is suffering, because I don't consider myself someone who
has suffered anything significant. That makes me an intellectual
observer with much to learn. However regarding the events in Asia;
this I can do - I can pray, I can give, and - in publishing this
page - make my own attempt at turning THE question on its head.
As stated at the start I've presented a little of my own faith,
I've shared the gospel, and I hope that I have strengthened your
own faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.
January 1st 2005
Irvine, California, USA.