We have all been gripped by the horrifying images and descriptions of the recent tsunami that struck South Asia. In a matter of hours, possibly ten times the number of people that perished on 9/11/2001 lost their lives in a watery nightmare–people just as innocent and unsuspecting.
As believers, we are likely to be asked by our unbelieving friends and neighbors to explain how such things can happen if our God is, as we claim, all loving and all powerful. These questions sometimes come as genuine attempts to make sense of the seemingly senseless and sometimes come in a mocking form as hurt people direct their frustration at us and the God we represent.
We went through a similar period after September 11th, 2001; but, one key difference in this tragedy is that there is no Al Qaeda to blame. As a grieving nation sought answers in 2001, the culprit was clear. The only question was why God allowed it to happen. The answer relied heavily on the moral free agency of those that perpetrated the crime. We could explain the fallen state of man and point out that if God were to eliminate all evil, we’d all be swept out of existence. This is because the human heart is utterly bent toward evil (see Jeremiah 17:1-18).
But in this case, there is no one to blame. We even call such disasters “Acts of God.” So how do we answer the tough questions? First off, this one of those time when no answer may be the best answer. We see the story of Job where folks did their best to provide answers and only made matters worse. A tragedy of this magnitude defies easy answers. We suffer and grieve with the world over what has happened, just as Jesus Himself grieved when he saw the ravages of sin in His creation. But we don’t grieve as those who have no hope, because we know that Christ will return to make all things right. Jesus’ parable in Luke 13:1-9 deals with a similar situation of tragedy. Jesus uses it as an opportunity to remind His listeners of their own mortality and calls them to repentance.
While we cannot explain God’s purposes in this situation, we can point out that the Christian worldview can account for and explain why the world is the way it is. In Romans 8:18-25, Paul explains that the very creation was corrupted and suffers under the weight of the fall of mankind into sin. The world is not the way it should be, but Jesus will return make all things right again. In that day, there will be no more death and destruction. The real question is whether or not one will be a beneficiary of that glorious act or left out and left to a fate that will make the sorrow in this world seem mild. This should serve as a reminder for all ambassadors of Christ of the urgency of our message.
PS: Here are some resources to equip you to answer the problem of evil.