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Events following tsunami illustrate divine truth

Steve Massey The Spokesman-Review

Entire families killed. Children orphaned. Hundreds of thousands left homeless.

Devastation left in the wake of South Asia’s tsunami has left many readers scratching their heads, wondering how a loving, merciful Creator could allow such tragedy.

In fact, some readers of this column ask a question salient to Christians: Isn’t widespread calamity such as the tsunami proof that there really is no God?

One reader wrote to the newspaper declaring, “If ever there was clear evidence that our human family is on its own, we have it here and now in abundance!”

Wrote another: “The problem of formulating a rational theodicy looms ever larger in the wake of the tsunami.”

I strongly disagree. But there is great value in considering such questions because they help us understand who God really is.

The Bible tells us that God is sovereign. He owns what he has created, and he rules over it. Nothing happens in this universe that is outside his ultimate control.

There’s no reason for Christians to shy away from the truth of God’s sovereignty even in the fog of tragedy. He is either God of all or not God at all. By faith, we trust in his sovereign rule.

So why do bad things happen? If God is capable of preventing natural disasters, sickness and warfare, why doesn’t he?

Well, that brings us to another truth about God. He created us with a free will; each one of us has the ability to choose him and his ways, or reject him and go our own way.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived in perfect fellowship with God in a place where disaster and tragedy were unheard of. Eden truly was paradise, physically and spiritually.

Blessed with a free will, Adam and Eve eventually chose poorly, and their decision had staggering repercussions for all of mankind.

Because they chose to sin against God, to head in a direction contrary to his will, God cursed the Earth and humanity. Death and suffering entered the stage of life and will not exit until this world ends.

That was man’s decision, not God’s. And we’ve been living with it ever since.

We must also understand that God is loving, gracious and merciful. He doesn’t merely act loving; he is love. Psalm 145:8 says, “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.”

Even when awful things happen, God has not ceased to be good and loving. In fact, it is because of his great love and mercy that he chooses to bring good even out of the ashes of catastrophe.

Romans 8:28 reminds us: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”

That verse instructs in two directions.

First of all, the Bible does not tell us that all things are good. In fact, many things are decidedly not good. Common sense alone proves that point.

Secondly, though, we’re assured that God can bring good out of any circumstance for those who love him and are his people.

We see an example of this truth played out in South Asia. It is interesting to me that the humanitarian crisis created by the tsunami has broken down barriers that have long kept Christian missionaries from entering some of those now-battered countries.

These missionaries bring food, water and money to give temporal hope to myriad people in the crucible of suffering. More importantly, they bring a message of eternal hope through faith in Jesus Christ.

I wonder how many people ultimately will be saved eternally because this terrible storm brought missionaries who loved them enough to share the Gospel.

Rather than questioning God’s character or existence, a better question is much more personal: What is my standing in the eyes of my sovereign Creator?

Each one of us is born under the curse caused by Adam’s sin. But God has graciously and mercifully provided a remedy. Jesus – God in the flesh – died on a cross to forever pay that debt of sin for us.

By faith in Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation, we have a hope that transcends any earthly circumstances, good or bad.

We have the hope of eternal life. We have the hope of walking with God as Adam and Eve did before they went their own way.

One day, God’s patience with man’s rejection of him will end: “… Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).

The real tragedy lies in rejecting God’s remedy for sin, our only hope.

John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

The choice is yours. Do you believe?

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