Hurricane Katrina was a catastrophe be-yond description. Apparently
thousands were killed. The exact death toll may never be known. Over a
million people have been displaced from their homes. Many of these no
longer have a house or a job to return to. Property damage is in the
billions. New Orleans is uninhabitable.
Katrina is a vivid reminder that this world is not a
“perfect” place. Other disasters occur frequently around the world-
tsunami, tornado, earthquake, fire, flood, drought, and pestilence. And
men face more frequent and prevalent miseries- sickness, accidents, birth
defects, and aging.
In the Scriptures those things that bring suffering to
the world are referred to as “evil”, especially in Ecclesiastes. Some
refuse to believe in God, while others doubt because of the “evil” of
suffering in this world. They wonder, “How could there be One who is
“Almighty” if the world is full of ‘defects’?” “And, if there is a God,
how can it be said that He cares for man, when He has placed him in the
middle of tragedy, sorrow, and death?” These questions may have crossed
your mind as you have viewed and read about the devastation and the tears
caused by Katrina. Let us look to the Scriptures for answers.
The book of Job provides us with the most extensive
discussion of the problem of suffering. The writing begins with a “behind
the scenes” look at what transpired in heaven before Job’s suffering
asked Satan if
He had considered His upright servant Job. Satan replied that Job served
God because of the abundant possessions He had given him. So, God gave
Satan permission to take away His possessions to see if, when he had
nothing, he would curse God or continue to worship Him (1:6-12). When Job
did not renounce God, Satan asked to afflict Job personally and this, too,
God granted. Satan then smote Job with boils all over his body (2:1-7).
This background information to Job’s troubles lets us
know that “evil” is something God is in control of, but it actually stems
from Satan. Satan seeks to turn men against God with the “evil”, but God
controls “if” and “to what extent” this can happen.
After Job and his friends debated the reasons for Job’s suffering, God
spoke to Job out of a whirlwind. He asked him where he was when He laid
the earth’s foundation and set the bounds of the sea. Had he ever brought
the dawn of the day to the world? Had he caused it to rain, hail,
lightning, or snow? Had he set in order the constellations? Had he
created and cared for the animal kingdom? (chapters 38-41) God’s answer
to Job showed him that the tragedies he suffered were not due to God’s
lack of power to prevent them. And, the Creator’s answer also showed him
that he was just a small powerless creature who should not question how
the Almighty worked in his life.
if there is an Almighty God who could stop catastrophes like Katrina, why
doesn’t He? Why does He allow man to suffer? Doesn’t He care? The
Scriptures point out that “evil” is present in the world because God
does care. The world was made “good” and man, the crown of God’s
creation, was said to be “very good” (Gen 1:4, 10,12,18,21,25,31). The
“evil”, that is, all the things that cause man pain and tears, came into
the world after Adam and Eve’s sin. The consequences of their sin (Gen
3:16-19) reached beyond them- the consequences were more than a punishment
to Adam and Eve for their disobedience. God wanted all succeeding
generations to understand the serious consequences of sin.
When women have pain in childbirth, when men work with sweat in the midst
of thorns to feed their families, when men die as the result of defect,
sickness, aging, accident, natural disaster (e.g. Katrina), God is
shouting, “Think about the consequences of sin!” Physical disease calls
our attention the more serious spiritual disease. Physical death points to
the more-to-be-feared spiritual death (separation from God, now and
forever in hell). Temporal suffering makes us want to avoid sin and the
worse, eternal suffering it brings (Jn 5:14).
As God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He
subjected the world to “evil” in hope (Rom 8:18-25). This shows
that His subjection of the world to suffering was both temporary and
purposeful. Even when God sent the sinful pair out of the Garden, He
forward to the glorious revealing of His sons in bodies that would no
longer suffer misery. To see “evil” in its proper perspective, we must
look at it from an eternal perspective. When compared to eternal glory,
all pain and suffering becomes “light”. (2 Cor 4:16-5:10).
God uses “evil” to discipline His sons so that they may
experience eternal glory.. The same trials that Satan uses to try to
destroy our relation-ship with God- God intends to work for our spiri-tual
good- to draw us closer to Him. What we see as “disorder” in the world is
part of His order. What we see as a lack of His care is part of His care
(Rom 8:28-31; Heb 12:5-13; Js 1:2-4). Through “evil”, Job learned
patience (Js 5:11), David corrected his life (Ps 119:67,71,75), Solomon
understood the meaning of life (Eccl 1:12-15 & 12:13-14), and Paul
remained humble, despite receiving glorious revelations (2 Cor 12:7-10).
To the servant of God, the “evil” of this world that brings tears is part
of God’s care and, in the spiritual growth that results, he can rejoice.
Finally, in suffering, God shows His care for His sons by hearing their
prayers (Js 5:13). The Spirit and the Son add their interceding voices to
these prayers (Rom 8:26-27, 34). God gave His Son to die on that painful
and shame-filled Cross for his sons. Would He then abandon them while they
suffer or even when they die? Nothing will separate them from His
love! Over all “evil”, even as catastrophic as Katrina, they are more
than conquerors! (Rom 8:31-32, 35-39)