An opinion on natural disasters - Part 1

This blog was published in a newsletter a few weeks ago while hurricane Maria category-5 was closing on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Then a powerful earthquake shook Mexico City killing at least 225 people, and now wildfires are raging in Northern California. As you read this I ask you to be assured of the love of God, His wisdom, and His redeeming power which surpasses our time and lead us into eternity.

Once hurricane season starts, an earthquake shakes, a tsunami strikes, a tornado hits, a wildfire starts or any natural disaster takes place, immediately God is put on trial. Why does He allow it? Is He in control? If He is in control, why didn’t He stop it? Could there have been another method to speak to us? Before we answer any of these questions, let’s first correct few things. We describe these events as “natural”, yet we blame God for them, we name them “disasters”, while they are good for our souls. Below is the answer to some of these questions by St. John Chrysostom.

To the purpose of these natural events, St. John says:

“Whenever therefore you see that famines have taken place, and pestilences, and drought and immoderate rains, and irregularities in the atmosphere, or any other of the things which chasten human nature, be not distressed, nor be despondent, but worship Him who caused them, marvel at Him for His tender care. For He who does these things is such that He even chastens the body that the soul may become sound.” We can include hurricanes, tornados, wildfires, and earthquakes in the list. St. John indicating these events have a spiritual reason, they are to chasten the body so the soul may become sound.

To the question of who is behind these events, he answers:
“God does these things, and even if the whole city, nay even if the whole universe were here I will not shrink from saying this. Would that my voice was clearer than a trumpet, and that it was possible to stand in a lofty place, and to cry aloud to all men, and to testify that God does these things.” For some of us, this answer is harsh and hard to swallow, because God would seem unloving, harsh, and violent. One can’t ignore the emphasis and forth he has on God as the doer of these events, which make us assume that this was probably a question raised in his days, fourth century.

St. John Doesn’t stop here, but he tells us he is confident about his opinion:
“I do not say these things in arrogance but I have the prophet standing at my side, crying and saying, There is no evil in the city which the Lord has not done—now evil is an ambiguous term; and I wish that you shall learn the exact meaning of each expression, in order that on account of ambiguity you may not confound the nature of the things, and fall into blasphemy.” We notice two things here. First, St. John supporting his opinion based on the prophecy of Amos “If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?” Amos 3:6 and we can add to it also what Isaiah says, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things” Isaiah 45:7. Second is that St. John says evil is an ambiguous term which he will clarify in the next point.

What is evil then? According to St. John:
“There is then evil, which is really evil; fornication, adultery, covetousness, and the countless dreadful things, which are worthy of the utmost reproach and punishment.” 

Why earthquakes, famine, hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural events are not evil? St. John answers:
“Because were they evils, they would not have become the sources of good to us, chastening our pride, goading our sloth, and leading us on to zeal, making us more attentive.”

Brothers and sisters, I know this tastes bitter, but this topic isn’t finished yet, we will continue to study it with next blog post. Until then, let’s pray for everyone who is going thru these natural events. Let’s also approach God in repentance and humility asking Him to forgive our sins and iniquities. Finally, be comforted that our God is good ““For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” Says the Lord, who has mercy on you”” Isaiah 54:10. 

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