Responding to Natural Disasters


My heart goes out to the many families who have lost loved ones and all their worldly possessions in the recent rash of devastating tornadoes in Alabama, Missouri and Arkansas. The destruction, even as we view it by television, is overwhelming. I can’t imagine what they must be feeling.
It’s heartening to hear the testimonies of many survivors who are truly thankful that their lives have been spared even though they’ve lost so much. I believe the Scriptures hold the key to answering questions about how we should think about such tragedies, what attitudes we should have toward God in relation to them, and what actions we should take in response.  This is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of the topic, but merely a starting point for our thoughts and actions.

How we should think about natural disasters: In Luke 13 Jesus taught that such disasters and similar tragedies are not to be considered God’s judgment against those who suffered, but rather a warning for unbelievers to repent and turn to God for fear that they should die an eternal death.  
How those who suffer should think about God: Hebrews 4-5 reminds us that Jesus is our great high priest who can sympathize with and comfort those who suffer because he himself suffered loss, torture, rejection and death as a human being; and, Job 40-42 reminds us that since God’s ways are beyond our understanding, any criticism we feel toward him should give way to repentance and trust in his infinite wisdom.
How we should respond to those who are suffering: Many passages in the Psalms remind us of God’s care and help for the needy (Ps 22:24; 40;17); Ezekiel warns those who would care only for their own needs while ignoring the needs of those who are suffering “outside their door” (16:49-50);  Acts 11:29-30 reminds us how the church in Antioch sent relief — everyone according to their ability — to fellow believers who were suffering in Jerusalem; and, Paul’s letters to the Corinthians tells us that they sent messengers to deliver the offerings they had collected for the same needy Jerusalem church (1 Cor. 16:1-2 and 2 Cor. 8:19-20). One young family in our former church took such action after the recent earthquake in Haiti. Their teen and pre-teen daughters came up with the idea of having a number of T-shirts printed up with something like “Help for Haiti” on them and paying for them out of the family funds. They then offered the shirts for a donation to their friends and church family and sent the proceeds to a reputable relief agency. 

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