On TV news this week, we have been watching the terrible devastation—loss of life, homes, crops, businesses, etc.—in Queensland, Australia, due to historic flooding. Tragedies beyond description have hit Queensland, where I lived most of my life. I still have many family members there who have kept me apprised on flood-related developments. While I have first-hand accounts (and I’m happy to report that my family are all safe and well), you can grasp something of the extent of the catastrophe by doing a search on the internet for Australian news sources. You’ll learn just how much greater the catastrophe is than you would by merely watching a brief report on TV.
Death and the Age of the Earth
Just as an aside, for those Christians (including pastors and theologians) who believe in millions of years and that the fossil record was supposedly laid down over millions of years before Adam, they have a major problem dealing with the question: “Where is God in the midst of all this death and suffering?”
If death, disease, suffering, catastrophes (as represented in the fossil record) have been going on for millions of years before Adam’s Fall, and God described all of those bad things as “very good”’ (the description God gave the creation when he finished it on the sixth day of creation), then God said death, struggle, suffering, disease, catastrophes, etc. are also “very good.”
But it is only the Christian who takes Genesis as literal history (as it is meant to be taken, not as poetry or allegory) who can provide the biblical answer. The creation was perfect, but is now marred by sin. It was once “very good,” but is now changed because of man’s sin—our rebellion against the Creator. We live in a world where we have a little (though often horrible) taste of what life is like without God! The “groaning” (Romans 8:22) we experience daily, and the extra groaning in times of terrible disaster, are a reminder that we are not living in a world as God made in Genesis—but a world suffering because of the Fall.
One can’t even imagine how horrible it would be to live for eternity without God! What a reminder to turn to the living God.
You can watch some eye-opening videos of the flooding here.
The question often comes up at this point: Where is God in the midst of all this loss of life and property?
I was pleased to see the Australian prime minister on television who, even though she is an avowed atheist, showed sincere care and concern for the people of Queensland. But as an atheist, why would she do this? As an atheist, she may claim that her worldview prompts her to care for people, but in an ultimate sense, what purpose would this have in a purposeless universe? And in reality, whether she likes it or not, she is borrowing from Christian presuppositions to incorporate such care into her worldview. In fact, even though she says she is an atheist, the prime minister is not! God’s Word in Romans 1 makes it clear that the knowledge of God is written on our hearts. People who call themselves atheists are actually “suppressing the truth” (Romans 1:18–21).
AiG staff members have written articles on such matters that you can read on our website, such as the following:
- Atheism: An Irrational Worldview
- Evolution and the Challenge of Morality
- Morality and the Irrationality of an Evolutionary Worldview
- Darwin—Unwittingly a “Creationist”
Nonetheless, the question remains: Where is God in the midst of all this tragedy? Children have been killed; whole families are missing. People’s homes and belongings have been destroyed. Even many Christians, who love the Lord, have been equally affected by this tragedy.
Here are a few thoughts/reminders for us about the nature of tragedies like this. I also encourage you to read other articles on our website on a loving God and the question of suffering (such as the article we wrote right after after 9/11 in the USA).
- Romans 8:22 reminds us we live in a groaning world because of sin. We do not live in a perfect world, as Adam and Eve did before the Fall. Whether we are Christians or non-Christians, all of us are under the Curse pronounced in Genesis 3:17–19 because of sin. We suffer the effects of the Curse in many ways—we age, get sick, and so on.
- We are reminded in Matthew 6:20 not to “lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust . . . ” The things of this world, including material goods, are temporary. They will not last. Eternal matters are most important and should always be our priority. Of course, we do need to share one another’s burdens, as the Scripture teaches us in Galatians 6:2.
Because we know we are made in the image of God, Christians should be showing care and love to others—helping them with their material needs. However, we need to understand that spiritual needs are ultimately what people truly need and they have to deal with the truth of God’s Word and the gospel. There has been a terrible loss of material goods—homes, belongings, and so on—and as God’s people, we should do all we can to help such people get back on their feet. But we should be reminded that material goods do not last, and we need to be reminded to consider what will be our eternal state.
- We mourn when we hear of the death of anyone—adults or children. But first, we must remember that the question is not “why did those people die?”, but rather “why does death exist?” (after all, everyone will eventually die). Hebrews 9:27 points out that it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment. Furthermore, Romans 5:12 indicates that by one man—Adam—came sin and by sin came death. It is not God’s fault that there is death in the world; it is our fault because we sinned in Adam and thus have separated ourselves from our Creator.1 God stepped into history in the person of Jesus Christ, the “God-man,” to pay the penalty for our sin and offer us a free gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8). He did a special work to save us from what we did in rebelling against our God. Yes, we mourn with people over these sad deaths in Australia (and also in Tucson, Arizona because of the horrible shooting a few days ago). But we need to be reminded that death is the ultimate end for all, and the question we need to ask ourselves is” “Where will we stand in regard to what happens to us after death?” (Matthew 25:46).
- God’s ways and God’s timing are not our ways and timing. Many accounts in the Bible remind us that though something at the time seems to be unfair and without reason (from our human perspective), we are only fallible and finite (very very finite) human beings. We know nothing compared to an infinite God (Colossians 2:2–3). Such a God would have morally commendable and just reasons for something way beyond what we could imagine. Yes, we can ask “why?”, but then we have to acknowledge that we may or may not find out why in this life. Ultimately it is up to a sovereign God and His purposes.
Through all this, and as hard as it may be for those in the midst of tragedy, God is a God of love.
There are many other matters we could consider in this topic of God, suffering, and death, but the bottom line is this: We live in a sin-cursed universe. The floods in Australia and the devastation they caused are ultimately our fault—all of us—every human being. It is not God’s fault. Certainly there are those who will get angry at God over what has happened. But instead we should be angry at sin—our sin. And then, like the apostle Paul, fall on our knees and cry out “O wretched man that I am, who can deliver me from this bondage of death.”
Through all this, and as hard as it may be for those in the midst of tragedy, God is a God of love. It is only because there is a God that there is such a thing as love anyway. And even though we ask why, and we do have to suffer in this world, ultimately we have to come to the point that Job did where he fell before the Lord in dust and ashes and recognized that God is God (Job 42:6). Who are we to question His ways? We need to acknowledge who we are (i.e., sinful creatures) and throw ourselves at His feet, knowing He is an all-merciful, all-loving God—a Heavenly Father who wants us to live with Him in eternity.