"If God is such a loving God why did
he allow the tsunami, and how come he allowed so many
inncocent people to suffer and be killed?" Not an uncommon
question being asked right now by those seeking to understand
God and God's involvement in this world.
Right now we know that are over
145,000 people were killed, and 5 million people displaced
from their homes in 11 different nations as a result of the
recent tsunami. So how are we to understand and address the
realities of this situation?
Well we know how a tsumani occurs
geologically, but theologically why did the tsunami happen in
the first place, and why did God allow it to happen at this
place, at this time? Because of the consequences of this
event, death and suffering, both of these questions can be
placed under the broader question, "why does God allow
The first question (why did the
tsunami happen) can be addressed by understanding the fall of
humanity and the fall of creation, and the affect sin has had
on people and creation itself.
The "why's" of the 9/11 tragedy tend
to be easier to explain in that God allows people to make
choices and some chose evil, or sin, over good. So it's clear
that sin was the reason for what happened on 9/11. And it's
also true that sin has played a role in the tsunami.
You see, in some cases humanity does
cause those events we call natural diasters because of our
abuse of creation. For example, our pollution has caused acid
rain, which among other things is killing the rain forests, a
place where we get many natural resources to develop medicines
and other products.
We've also caused events like
mudslides and massive erosion, that has resulted death and
distruction, because of our poor management of the land God
has entrusted to us.
The truth is much of the suffering we
encounter in the world in its many forms is the result of
other people's sin. And this is true of the many global and
community disasters like war, starvation, and injustice.
Also, we cause our own suffering and
the suffering of others, through the sin we engage in. The
choices we make impact others as well as ourselves. Some have
estimated that perhaps as much as 95% of the world's suffering
can be accounted for in this way: our sin and the sin of
That leaves a small proportion of
suffering that can only be explained as being the result of
the fact we live in a fallen world: a world where all creation
has been affected by the sin of human beings, going back to
the fall of humanity in the perfect Garden of Eden.
Natural disasters are a result of this
disorder in creation, and this is the category of suffering
the tsunami falls in. So why the tsunami happended can be
explained as being a result of the fall of creation, and is
NOT some vengeful act or wrath of God, as some TV shows have
called disasters of this sort.
Now that still leaves the second
question of why didn't God stop the tsumani from happening, or
at the very least offer some warning so that people, his
children, could at least make a choice to stay or seek higher
ground. This is a question I honestly can't answer, nobody
can. God seems to permit natural evils such as hurricanes,
tornadoes, cancer, tsunamis, and so forth for reasons we don't
understand. But what we do know is that God's wisdom is far
greater then ours, and we know God loves us and would never
deliberately harm innocent people.
Yet, there are still questions we seek
answers for like, why was there no warning of the tsunami, at
least people would then have a chance to escape. Or was there
warning? You see there were very few animals killed by the
tsunami. They all left the area when they received the warning
It's said that when the birds see fish
doing strange things in the water they leave the area, which
in turn serves as a warning for other animals to also leave
the immediate area. The elephants felt the vibrations of the
earth and left, and as other animals saw them leave they too
left. It seems the "critters" of the world have an instinctive
warning system they use to communicate to one another.
Well then, why don't humans? After all
we are smarter and more intelligent then the animals, we can
reason, and are the pinnacle of God's creation. So I wonder if
the warning was there, but because we have lost touch with
creation, becoming self-absorbed, we no longer can sense,
hear, or see the warnings that are provided through creation.
It absolutley amazes me that some
vacationer's to the places the tsunami hit retruned to their
vacation spots the next day to continue their vacations. They
weren't offering to help rescue or care for people, they were
more interested in getting their vacation in. This to me is a
classic case of self-absorption.
There are also the people taking
advantage of the disaster by looting hotels and homes, and
kidnapping children to use them as slaves and for sexual
exploitation. Muslim extremists have also entered the picture
now in "interesting" ways.
I also wonder how many tsunami's, or
other natural disasters God has prevented over the course of
human history that we aren't even aware of. After all, since
we aren't aware of them we don't tend to talk about them. If
God were not in the picture at all if God had divorced himself
from creation I really wonder how many of us would be here
Now some folks will argue that God
must not exist or if God does exist, God either doesn't care,
or God, after creating the world, stepped aside to let things
just happen without His influence.
Well both of these statements are
false according to the Bible. God does exist, is the creator
of all things, and is very much active in creation and in our
It's important we understand that God
does not desire for us to suffer. God knows what it feels like
first hand to suffer, what losing a loved one is like. After
all God endured the painful torture, suffering, and death of
his son Jesus. God grieves when we grieve, and God weeps when
But to truly understand why God allows
suffering, we need to go before the cross of Christ. It's here
that we begin to understand why a God of love and mercy would
allow suffering in its many forms.
First, we see that human beings abused
their God-given freedom when they chose to nail Jesus to the
cross. And yet God used that very abuse, enabling Jesus on the
cross to pay the price for that sin, and for all sin through
Second, we see God working through
suffering. Those who nailed Jesus to the cross intended it for
evil, but God intended it for good. The cross is ultimately a
victory because it holds the key to salvation.
Third, we see that God more than
compensates for suffering. Jesus, "who for the joy set before
him endured the cross, (Hebrews 12:2) saw ahead to his
resurrection, and as a result, he saw ahead to our
resurrection and eternity with him.
Fourth, and most important of all, we
see that God himself is not removed from suffering. He
participated in the suffering of the cross and he suffers for
us and with us now.
Psalm 69 says, "I have come into the
deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me…Yet God's steadfast
love is good." - Psalm 69:2b, 16
Since we can't answer the question why
the tsunami at this place and at this time, and we can't
change the past, the issue becomes what do we do now? Well we
need to be in the present and we need to move forward with
Now I'm not suggesting we forget what
happened or diminish this tragedy at all, I'm suggesting we
need to focus on what God wants us to do to help in the wake
of all that has happened. We ought to ask the question, "OK,
God now what do you want me to do to bring good to a bad
Lets take a look at some of the good
already taking place. Consider the overwhelming response by
the global community to provide rescue, recovery, medical, and
rebuilding help. And the many more who are providing money so
the appropriate aid can be provided.
Consider the many life saving miracles
we're now just hearing about. People being found floating on
matresses and clinging onto trees. We've heard of mothers
having to decide which child to help and which child to let go
while battling strong currents.
Can you imagine being in the position
of having to make a decision like that. And then to hear the
miraculous stories of how the child the mother had to let go,
was saved from the rushing currents of the water. Some have
described this as the hand of God snatching the child from
So even in the midst of such a tragic
event, God is still present. God uses events like the tsunami
as a way to bring the world together, putting aside political
differences, faith differences, all differences, in an effort
to get humanity to help one another.
When you stop and think about it, it's
awesome that God has pulled together Christians, Jews,
Muslims, Hindus, and Buddists to help one another, in spite of
the few Muslim extremists that are trying to undermine the
Also, as we respond to this tragedy we
are representing Christ to those who live in the 11 nations
affected by the tsunami. God has entrusted us with his work.
We are serving as the light of Christ, demonstrating to this
largely Muslim part of the world that Christians are not evil.
Christians genuinely care for all humankind regardless of
belief or faith. And that Christian's are God's hands and feet
in this world. Jesus reached out to all people, just as we,
and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, are reaching
out to the world.
The Rev. Paul Benjamin, pastor of
Emory UMC in Street, Md. after watching a catastrophe unfold
in Southeast Asia stopped asking why. Almost immediately,
Benjamin, who once pastored 18 churches in his native Sri
Lanka, began asking, "What can I do about it?"
Benjamin reports that communications
were difficult in the devastated area where he used to serve,
but he has persevered. He has since learned that in one town
where he had ministered, 95 percent of the population had been
killed and the town was gone -- destroyed, he said.
Benjamin takes heart in the survival
of his sister and in the ministry of his niece, who is doing
remarkable relief work in Sri Lanka for the Methodist Church
where she is a pastor.
As people who know of Benjamin's ties
to Sri Lanka ask how they can help, he proudly tells them
about the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and
the United Methodist connectional system.
To date, friends of his daughter and
others in the community have sent over $3,000 to Emory UMC to
assist in relief efforts. Benjamin plans to hand-deliver it
when he goes to Sri Lanka later this month to assist in relief
efforts. And this is just one example of how people,
specifically United Methodists have ties to the areas
devastated by the tsunami and how they are responding.
And I promise you long after the big
name organizations leave this area of the world the United
Methodist Church will remain, providing ongoing support to
those whose lives have been so disrupted.
I believe God is at work, and through
this destruction I believe God is giving us a glimpse of what
the Kingdom of Heaven will be like, not the devastation or
loss of life, but people working together for the common good,
people helping people, brother and sister helping brother and
Loss of life, loss of livelihood, loss
of home, loss of country in some cases, is always tradgic, and
not new to humainty. But as we heard read in First Peter as
Christians we are to "rejoice that we participate in the
sufferings of Christ, so that we may be overjoyed when his
glory is revealed…if you suffer as a Christian…praise God that
you bear that name."
You see loss of everything in this
world is only a temproary situation. We have Jesus, we have
hope, we have a future, and we know we are part of a greater
kingdom that is perfect and glorious.
So until the day when faith becomes
sight, and the trumpet sounds, let us provide an outpouring of
prayers and gifts to share God's love with our sisters and
brothers, so that healing will occur and communities can be
Now is the time for our congregation
and all United Methodists to show care and compassion to our
sisters and brothers half-way around the world, to put into
action what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and to
demonstrate that the world is our parish.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade