Turkish Earthquake Death Toll Now Over 50,000: Where’s God in This Tragedy?

by Ken Ham on March 15, 2023
Featured in Ken Ham Blog

Our world is a broken place—you don’t have to look very far to see heartbreaking examples of pain, suffering, and death. As just one example out of many in the last few weeks, we’ve been horrified by the ever-climbing death toll and devastation of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Over 50,000 are dead (about 48,000 in Turkey and 6,000 in Syria), and nearly a quarter million buildings are significantly damaged or destroyed. Where’s God in all this tragedy, pain, and suffering?

God has given us “big picture” truths we can apply to any situation.

Well, this is a big question and one that Christians through the ages have wrestled with. But God hasn’t left us without answers. While we may never know the specific reason why a specific person suffers or dies tragically, God has given us “big picture” truths we can apply to any situation, whether it’s in our own lives and families or in a country far, far away.

Here are four principles we must understand and apply in tragedy:

  1. This world is not how it should be! This world of pain, suffering, tragedy, natural disasters, and death is not the world that God originally made. God created a perfect world (Genesis 1:31) in which there was no death or suffering. Our sin in Adam and our continued sin—not our loving heavenly Father—are responsible for the broken, groaning world we now live in. Because of sin, death is inevitable, and suffering almost certain in this world.

  2. God is sovereign, and he is good. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over everything . . . and also that he is perfectly good. While we might not be able to make sense of tragedy with our finite, limited, earthly perspectives, we can trust that the God of all wisdom, all goodness, all justice, and all kindness is sovereignly ruling and reigning in all things for his glory and the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). To see this truth dramatically illustrated in the midst of human suffering, agonizing, and questioning, I encourage you to read the book of Job. God knew we’d struggle with this in a sin-cursed world, and so he wrote an entire book of the Bible dedicated to this question! (I also encourage you to dive deeper into what God is doing about suffering in this world in this brand-new article from Liz Abrams, “What Is God Doing About Bad Things?”)

  3. Repent—today is the day of salvation, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. There’s an interesting perspective on tragedy tucked away in Luke 13:1–5.

    There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

    When Jesus was asked about seemingly unfair tragedy, he didn’t explain why exactly God chose that day to call those Galileans or those in Siloam before his judgment seat. Jesus is God—he knew why God sovereignly allowed those two tragedies to happen—but he didn’t explain it to his audience. Instead, he called them to repent, or they likewise would perish! In other words, make sure you are ready for your time.

    Scripture says that today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2)—we’re never promised our next breath, let alone tomorrow. Repent today and trust in Christ for salvation.

  4. Suffering isn’t your biggest problem! Living in a sin-cursed and broken world can be excruciating, but no matter your suffering, it’s not your biggest problem. Your biggest problem is the insurmountable sin debt that separates you from a holy God.

    On your own, you are headed to a Christless eternity in hell as the just punishment of your sin against a holy God. But God solved our biggest problem by sending his Son to this earth to live a perfect life, die on the cross in our place, and rise again, victorious over sin and death.

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    When you trust in Christ, you are forgiven and given the gift of eternal life with Christ!

    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

In my own life I have experienced suffering (my brother died of a horrible brain disease in 2002). As a family, we have had to wrestle with the question of suffering and turn to God’s Word for the “big picture” answers and the comfort only God can give. I open up about this tragedy and how it impacted me in a book coming out later this year. I encourage you to subscribe to my blog so you’ll be notified when this very personal book is released. I pray the Lord will use it to encourage and strengthen many who are suffering and to provide a biblical worldview on suffering.

Abide: Holding Fast in Suffering

This question of suffering is such an important one as it strikes a chord in every heart (who has not endured some form of suffering in our broken world?), so I am grateful that our Answers for Women conference this month will be addressing suffering with sessions from Allie Beth Stuckey, Heidi St. John, Costi Hinn, Justin Peters, June Hunt, Dr. Diana Lynn Severance, Gracia Burnham, Andrew and Norine Brunson, Jason Carlson, and Dr. Georgia Purdom. I’ll be speaking there as well. It’s going to be an amazing time of equipping and encouraging on how to “Abide: Holding Fast in Suffering.” Our in-person conference is sold out, but we’re hosting a special online experience with host Avery Foley, featuring exclusive interviews and other content, so you can still join us (and I hope you will!).

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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