When Horrific Natural Catastrophes Occur, Where is God?


December 26, 2004 South East Asia was overwhelmed by a tsunami of great proportions such as has not been seen in centuries. The result was a catastrophe that  led to hundreds of thousands killed and a great many injured. The damages to several nations are incalculable.

Many have understandably asked: "Where was God when this happened? If He is a loving God, why did He not intervene?" Atheists gleefully answer such a question with their well-known pat answer: "God did not intervene, because there is no God!"

Theologians from various religions have offered various, contradictory explanations. The following is this author's explanation based on scriptural indications. It proposes that God exists, that He knew about the tsunami in advance, that He was aware of its destructive power, but that He did not intervene because humanity from the very beginning has invited Him to stay out of its affairs -- and He has obliged.



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Before analyzing this topic, it is critical that certain foundational aspects relating to God’s nature be established. They are critical pillars in this article's discussion of God’s fairness and justice in relation to any and all catastrophe. They are as follows:

The first pillar on which this article builds is the belief that God exists, and that He is totally sovereign over nature and over humanity.

The second pillar is the belief that the Judeo-Christian God is the only God, and that there are no other gods. He, in fact, asserts the following: "I am He, I am the first, I also the last" (Isaiah 48:12), and "Besides me there is no God" (Isaiah 44:6).

The third pillar is that God is "omniscient," that is all knowing. Therefore, God knew in advance about the terrible earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and its catastrophic consequences.

The fourth pillar is that God is "omnipotent." We read in the Old Testament that " In YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength" (Isaiah 26:4). The New Testament, likewise, testifies to this through Christ Himself: "For with God nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1:37). Thus, if God wanted to He could have prevented the earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and the catastrophes that followed.

The fifth pillar is that God is "holiness," that is righteousness. God is holy, and He demands holiness. In the Book of Deuteronomy we are told that He is "...a God of truth and without injustice" (Deuteronomy 32). Christ had no doubt about this great truth and referred to God the Father as "Righteous Father" (John 17:25).

The last pillar is that God is "Love." That is, God is always motivated by love, and only love. Therefore, whatever He has done, and whatever He has not done, must be framed by love. The Bible assures us that God is love (I John 4:8,16); that He is a God who delights in loving kindness (Jeremiah 9:24); and who is "abundant in mercy" (Psalm 86:5). Everything about His essence is goodness and other-centeredness, and no selfishness can be found in Him.

Let’s summarize these critical fundamentals: God exists and He is supreme over all creation; being Omniscient, He knew that the horrific earthquake would strike that part of the world, and that it would lead to a catastrophic tsunami; He also knew that the tsunami would hit the coasts of various nations, and that the consequences would have been disastrous; yet He chose not to, in spite of the fact that He is omnipotent and could have intervened. God is righteousness and love and these factors must be somehow be present in His actions or lack thereof.

Why did God not intervene, then?

The first key factor that the author would like to propose is that God, "by-and- large," is not involved in the matters of this world, and that most of humanity, in fact, is in the hands of another god: Satan.

The Bible is quite explicit about this reality. Jesus confirms this fundamental truth, by calling Satan "The prince of this world’" (John 14:30 and 16:11). The Apostle Paul refers to Satan as "The prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). Most meaningfully, Paul also refers to Satan as "the god of this world."(I Cor. 4:4).

At present, therefore, Satan is the Ruler of this world—not the Almighty. Humanity has adopted Satan as its god and offers worship to him through their evil thoughts and actions. The philosophy of this world is one of disobedience and rebellion towards God’s laws. Our conscience testifies to right and wrong, even if we have no knowledge of the true God, and humanity, by-and- large, is choosing to do what is wrong and evil. This choice places humanity into Satan’s camp -- and God has been invited out

                                                GOD IS HOLINESS AND JUSTICE

From the beginning of the Bible to the end, God manifests Himself as a Being who greatly values holiness and justice. Since the Garden of Eden, He has chosen to teach His human children His way, but does not force His way upon them. In the Garden of Eden, we see this philosophy revealed in God’s approach toward Adam and Eve. He told the first two humans not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that represented self-sufficiency and rebellion to God’s will, and then He left. Interestingly enough, He allowed Satan to present his deceitful side and did not intervene.

Adam and Eve chose the path to rebellion with the consequence being toil, suffering and finally death.

Humanity  has also chosen Satan’s way ever since, thus reaping the same fruits. These are the daily rewards Satan showers his worshippers with, worldwide.

God, in the meantime, has obliged to the manifest wish of humanity; He has pulled away from the affairs of this world and has abandoned humanity to its own devices. Paul describes rebellious humanity in these terms:

…although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened…Therefore God gave them up to uncleanness…to vile passions…to a debased mind…committing what is shameful…being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy , murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness, they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful (Romans 1: 21-31).

The consequence to this rebellious spirit leads to separation from the Creator, with the consequence that He will not answer human prayers, though He clearly has the ability to: "Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, Nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear. Your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you" (Isaiah 59: 1-2).

God Himself asserts that He has the power to intervene in whatever situation that might arise: "Is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Indeed with my rebuke I dry up the sea. I make the rivers a wilderness…I clothe the heavens with blackness . And I make sackcloth their covering" Isaiah 50:2-3). In short, God has the power to control natural disasters. He has power over tsunamis, floods and earthquakes, etc. but He is prevented from intervening by human wickedness. God will not reward evil with good.

On the other hand, God does intervene at times to protect those He is pleased with. Sometimes He chooses not to intervene even on the righteous’ behalf, even if it involves death and injury, and  that is part of  His great plan for each believer. In some cases, even His greatest of Apostles have not been spared being involved in destructive natural events. For instance, the Apostle Paul suffered shipwreck twice because of great sea storms and almost lost his life.

At times, even great famines have not been prevented, though God’s people would have been adversely affected by them.  In the New Testament we read that a great famine befell the area of Judea and the Church in Jerusalem was not spared. In fact, the Apostle Paul organized a charitable collection in Asia Minor for the benefit of the suffering Christians in Judea. God allowed the famine to test the Jerusalem Church’s faith and to test the liberality of the Gentile churches. God does not allow suffering on His people capriciously. He has very good reasons every time He tests His people severely, and those reasons are invariably for their benefit.

On occasions though, the scriptures make plain that God does intervene in the affairs of humanity and does bring about catastrophes on humanity or nations, if they become very exceptionally degenerate. The great Noachian Flood is an example of God’s intervention in wiping out almost all of humanity for their extreme depravity. Sin abounded on the earth, but God did not intervene for a long while. As the centuries went by, "the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6: 5). And God concluded that mankind did not deserve to exist any longer, and thus the fatal verdict: "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth" (V. 7). Only eight people found favor in God’s eyes: Noah, his wife, his three children and their wives.

Sodom and Gomorrah attracted God’s wrath and they, too, were obliterated. God "rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah" (Gen. 19: 24), and "He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the ground" (V. 25). God describes the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah as being "very grievous" (Genesis 18: 20).

The New Testament tells us that another reason why God overthrew the two cities was because He wanted their destruction to be "an example to those who afterwards would live ungodly" (2 Peter 2: 6). God’s intervention was meant to be so powerful and so drastic that all would hear and tremble. He also wanted generations to come to know that His will is supreme, that He will not forebear evil forever and that, though He is longsuffering, the day will come when He will extirpate evil in very dramatic ways. Likewise, Jude warns that "Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in similar manner, having given themselves over to sexual immorality, and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7).

Finally God assures us through various Bible books, such as the prophets and the Book of Revelation, that in the end of times God will again intervene and punish humanity severely for its sins. The Two Witnesses, two great prophets of God, will first warn humanity on God’s behalf, but all indications are that humans will refuse to repent, in spite of the increasing severity of the punishments.

To summarize, God is presently not involved in the affairs of this world. The sins of humanity and its rebelliousness separate it from God and therefore humans are at the mercy of cataclysmic natural events. When such cataclysmic events occur, God does not intervene. When human depravity reaches unacceptable levels, God pours His wrath on them. At the end of times God will bring about horrific destruction on all of humanity, after warning humans with the Two Witnesses.

                                                                  GOD IS LOVE

Being a holy and righteous God, the Eternal will not be involved in the affairs of a sinful world. He does stand by and watch, while catastrophes befall humanity and, at times, He causes such catastrophes to punish depraved humans. Yet God is also "Love." How can such a "loving" Being allow and bring about so much suffering? Is there more to the picture than we see?

In John 3:16 we read that God gave "His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Many people through the ages have perished by natural causes and through horrific wars and natural catastrophes, without the knowledge of Christ. Many people have perished in non-Christian South-East Asia without awareness of the salvific plan of God. Countless innocent children have perished, and they had no knowledge of God, His will or His Son. Is that it for all of them?

A God of love must finally show humanity that He does have a plan of salvation that manifests his love for all of humanity, and that He does have a way of bringing the knowledge of Christ’s saving power to all people, including those who have died in natural catastrophes without a knowledge of God. The Bible reveals such a future plan, and it is as follows:

1. Christ returns, and converted Christians will be resurrected to eternal life. (I Corinthians 15, Revelations 20:4-6).                       (I Corinthians 15,  Revelation 20:4-6).

2. Christ will rule over the earth for one thousand years during which time there will be no wars and no catastrophes, and peace and joy will engulf the whole world. (Isaiah 2:1-4,  32, 35).

3. Satan will be let loose for a little while at the end of the Millennium, and wars will re-occur (Revelation 20:7-10).

4. Afterwards, all the dead will be resurrected and a time of judgment will begin in which the dead without a knowledge of Christ will be enlightened and will have salvation offered to them. Those who had rejected the Way, though converted, and those who reject the way once enlightened, will be destroyed forever in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20: 13-15).

5. A New Heaven and a New Earth will be created, permeated with holiness and justice. Finally all fear, hunger, disease, wars, and natural disasters will be abolished forever. This is the glorious time when "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things shall pass away" (Revelation 20: 4).


The sufferings of mankind are many. Every day humans reap the fruits of  following Satan's way of rebellion and unrighteousness. God is allowing man to exercise His human free will and  learn from hard experience. God is out of human affairs, because humans want Him out of their affairs. When calamities strike, He is far and distant and will not intervene, except in the lives of those who please Him.

This horrible time of learning allotted to humanity is nearly over. Soon the Great King will say "Enough!" Jesus Christ will return, as He promised, and will assert Himself over a rebellious humanity. Humans will finally obey God's Laws, even if at first He will be forced to use a "Rod of Iron." During the Millennial rule of Christ, men and women will taste the joy of submitting to God and will reap the abundant benefits of obedience.

All of humanity, young and old, will finally be resurrected and will know their God and will get to choose life or death. If Christ and God's ways are their choice, they will be saved and will live forever in a world where the anxieties and the horrors of this life will be only fading memories.

May the Great God speed the day!

Michael Caputo

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Booklet cover: Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Suffering?















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