These can be both natural disasters, and man-made ones.
Earthquakes, storms, floods and wild fires that cause significant havoc, damage and often loss of life are considered a co-incidence or a freak of nature. These extreme environmental events are sometimes referred to as an ‘Act of God’, however credit is rarely given to Him for the times of peaceful weather and tranquillity we also experience in the natural world. The Bible states these devastating events will be increasingly common in the last days (Lk 21:11).
God has reasons for what He does in the world
say, "I create disaster [evil]..." (Isa 45:7). This is not moral evil, but physical evil or calamity. He can do things people might consider bad, such as sending a plague or famine to discipline His people, yet He cannot violate His holy nature, but does have a purpose for allowing different kinds of bad things to happen to people (Ezek 14:21)
God is sovereign over all and in total control, consistently working out everything according to His (good) purposes even though the whole world is now under the limited and temporary control of Satan (Jn 16:33; Rom 8:22, 11:36: Eph 1:11, 3:10,11; Phil 2:13; 1 Jn 5:19). God permits Satan (whose goal is to "steal, kill and destroy) and his evil spiritual forces besides humanity to commit acts of sin and ungodliness (Job 2:10; Lk 13:4; Jn 10:10; Act 2:23; 2 Thes 2:6-11).
Is sin the reason?
There is not always a direct correlation between sin and devastating calamities. While God judged the evil world with a flood, and used a natural disaster to deal with sin in the Israelite camp, these were isolated cases. Jesus denied there was necessarily a link, both in the case of a man’s blindness and in a fatal accident, saying that these people were no more sinful than many others (Gen 6:11-13; Num 16:30-34; Lk 13:1-5; Jn 9:1-5).
Am I ready to meet God at any time?
wilfully put ourselves in the enemy’s territory by sinning (1 Kgs 9:9; Job 34:11; Eph 4:27). At other times we can act recklessly or presumptuously push the boundaries by, for example, building in unwise places and then suffering loss from storms or fires. When we have brought calamity on ourselves by acting unwisely we must not accuse God for things He didn’t do, nor should we blame Him for the wrong actions of other sinful people who also are living in a world that has been adversely affected by sin in every aspect (Jer 4:18).
Making an appropriate response
When misfortune strikes we should consider, “Have these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?” and His protection has been removed (Deut 31:17). God is a loving God and His motivation through disasters is a wakeup call to sinful man to turn back to Him in humble repentance, yet not everyone changes their behaviour, especially for the long-term (Ps 119:67; Isa 26:9,10; Ezek 18:30). If the calamity is perceived as discipline because of sin, the solution is repentance and subsequent walking in righteousness, while if it is a test of faith, this calls for the outworking of Godly character (Gal 5:22,23). As believers our eyes should always be focused on our Saviour who has delivered us from the wrath to come, and we should give thanks to Him in whatever circumstances we find ourselves (Ps 34:1; 1 Thes 1:10, 5:18). Look for practical lessons that can be learnt or precautions that can be implemented in the future to minimize the effect of disaster and tragedy – by staying away from the fire we won’t get burnt! Do not become bitter with God, instead hold onto your faith so you will come through this devastation a much stronger Christian (Heb 10:35). David said, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until this disaster has past” (Ps 57:1).
If we are subject to various disasters, we can be sure He knows and has allowed this for a good reason. The Bible states God, who intervenes in the affairs of people desires all to be saved (yet many won't accept the offer) specifically chooses some people to be His children and to serve His purposes (Act 4:28; Eph 1:10). Our confidence and hope should remain firm in God, believing that in all our trials and tribulations God is working things out for His glory and our ultimate good (Job 23:10; Rom 8:18-28, 11:36; Eph 1:11; Heb 1:3, 6:19).
Am I quick to respond to major calamities – being His hands and feet?
opportunities to love and serve in the name of Jesus, providing solutions through compassionate good works, being ‘His hands and feet’ bringing practical assistance by responding as we would like done to us if we were in the same predicament (Mt 25:34-46; Lk 6:31; 1 Jn 3:17). We should also pray people will, even in desperation, turn to God for eternal life.
Our focus should be on Him not the calamity. We have the choice to retreat into self-pity, with a victim mentality affording no options except being crushed and becoming bitter at life – or we can choose to be proactive, making the best of the situation and coming through the crisis enriched in character when we overcome the problem. Do not complain ‘why me, Lord?’ rather humbly ask ‘what do you want to teach me Lord?’ The Bible is clear as to what our response should be to such events – turning our hearts closer towards Him in genuine repentance and wholehearted obedience, not away in rebellion and defiance (2 Chr 7:13,14; Act 3:19, 20:21). Allow “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, to guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus” regardless of the exterior chaos (Phil 4:7). His divine agenda and perspective are different to ours, and we should be endeavouring to see things from His viewpoint (Isa 55:8).
Spiritual protection is gained by taking refuge in Jesus, sheltering under His blood and obeying Him. “If you choose God above all gods to shelter and protect you then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways…” (Ps 91:9-11). This obviously doesn’t exclude believers from the temporary suffering of tragedy in this life, rather the Bible is referring to the eternal fulfilment of protection that no evil action can take away or permanently separate us from God (Rom 8:35; Col 1:13; 2 Tim 4:18). Jesus spoke of a poor lame beggar whose life on earth was full of misfortune yet this bore no relationship to the joys he experienced in the next (Lk 16:21-25). Even though you suffer all sorts of grief in the present realm as your faith is proved genuine it will be rewarded in heaven (1 Pet 1:6,7).
Jesus said, “I am with you always” – Matthew 28:20
loss of all his livestock, servants, seven sons and three daughters. His reaction was to worship God, and declared, “Even though [God] kill me I will still trust” (Job 1:1,20,21, 13:15). He understood the sovereignty of God – to do as He saw best, ultimately proven true for “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first” (Job 50:10-17).
Paul did not have a trouble free life. Yet although he was flogged, whipped, beaten, stoned and shipwrecked he stated, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes [on Jesus and eternity]…The things that have happened to me have really served to advance the gospel” (2 Cor 4:17,18, 11:23-27; Phil 1:12). The Bible records others were put in prison, tortured, sawn in two and beheaded for their unswerving faith (Heb 11:35-38). Their eternal perspective enabled them all to deal with personal disasters and trust God whether in this life they experienced a miracle or not (Dan 3:17,18). Many times "God's ways are beyond our human understanding" while sometimes He reveals His purpose such as He did to Pharaoh (Rom 9:17, 11:33).
We should live a life of righteousness; otherwise, the lifestyle of deceit, corruption and living for one’s own self will culminate in disaster and eternal regret, as the biggest disaster anyone can experience is to die without having received Christ as Saviour, and end up in the eternal lake of fire.
See also: accident, attitude, calamity, chance, consequences, crisis, divine judgement, focus, luck, perspective, precautions, protection, providence, reaction, response, self-pity, sovereignty of God, tragedy, trials, trouble, victim mentality, weather, why.