God’s love compels Him to alert people to the peril of their sinful behavior. God readily protects us from much of what may otherwise naturally occur, but we should not expect God to continually withhold such disaster when we are in rebellion to Him. At some point, He may choose to lift His hand of protection for a time, allowing nature to take its course as a means of challenging our rebellion and of reminding us of our reliance upon Him.
God can, and has, used natural disasters to punish wickedness. Sometimes natural disasters are God’s means of reminding the world of His righteousness, justice, and sovereignty. Other times, God’s will is that people seek refuge from calamity by returning to Him in repentance and righteousness. In Amos chapter 4:6–10, God reveals how He used famine, drought, blight, and pestilence to alert the Israelites to the danger they were in due to their rebellion against God. His intent was not to punish sin, but to draw the people back to Himself. Nevertheless, Amos repeatedly laments, “yet you did not return to me, declares the LORD.”
C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Without the incentive of pain and discomfort, we as humans rarely feel the need to change our behavior. God knows that being in a right relationship with Himself is more important than temporary comfort, pleasures, or safety. As such, He sometimes allows tragedy to strike in a merciful attempt to reveal to us the peril of remaining in rebellion to Him.
It is difficult to witness the grief of losing loved ones to death, the breaking apart of families, and the suffering of children, and conclude that they may be experiencing God’s mercy. Nevertheless, this is the teaching of Amos. In fact, Amos 4:2–3 declares that because Israel failed to respond to the warnings that God sent using natural causes, the people would experience a severe judgment when foreigners conquered them and used meat hooks to drag many of them away into captivity.
God is a loving God, but He is also a just God who will judge sin. Frightening as an encounter with the unbridled forces of nature may be, it is far less terrifying than a reckoning with He who controls the forces of nature. As such, God sometimes uses our helplessness in the face of His creation to remind us that we are not truly in control and that we are in great peril if we remain in rebellion to Him who is in control. Therefore, God sometimes demonstrates tough love by using natural disasters to arouse and teach people about His righteousness and their need to repent (Isa. 26:9).
This article is excerpted from the paper “Does God Use Natural Disasters to Judge People and Nations?“
1. Rogers, Joshua. “What Did Jesus Say about Natural Disasters?” Fox News: Opinion, September 7, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/09/07/what-did-jesus-say-about-natural-disasters.html.