Was God playing roulette with an unusual weather system? Or standing by, disinterested, as people were tossed about by a capricious wind that had nothing to do with His concerns? Or was He taking vengeance on sinners?
I know that simple answers seldom help those who are hurting but for my own peace of heart, I needed to answer these questions.
First, I have no doubt that God is sovereign and that He does have power over the weather. He created the principles of wind and rain and certainly can change their pattern should He have reason too.
I also know that the Lord never acts haphazardly. The entire Bible records no whimsical action, nothing done without purpose or infinite wisdom. In a situation like July 31, why some lived and others died is obviously beyond what He wants us to know, but He knows. That is one “why” that cannot be answered completely.
And I know that He is not disinterested. He hears the cries of the helpless. He cares. He loved the world so much that He gave His only Son to die for it. His care certainly was demonstrated in that there were so few deaths - compared to the extent of damage to homes, businesses, and vehicles. Many survivors relate miraculous deliveries, narrow escapes and unbelievable protection.
I also know that God demonstrates His love through people. We are made in His image and therefore have the capacity to be moved with compassion to meet needs. That is seen in the response of Edmontonians and others to meet the needs of survivors.
As I thought through some of these questions, I had to acknowledge that, ultimately, God is not obligated to spell out His reasons for what happens to any of us. He is God. But He does reveal Himself in Scripture, and some of the why’s of tragedy may be found in these examples:
- Affliction tested Job’s faith: Job 1 and 2.
- Suffering corrected behavior, Job’s and others, and helped them to grow in faith: Job 5:17, 23:10; Proverbs 3:11,12; Hebrews 12:5-13.
- Solomon said unexpected adversity helped people realize the vanity of trying to figure out their own future: Ecclesiastes 7:14.
- Adversity comes to those who take pleasure in sin: Daniel 9:11-14; Haggai 1:5-11.
- God can use trials to produce repentance. Jeremiah 31:18,19.
- For the believer, trouble develops godly qualities, including patience and faith: Romans 5:3,4; James 1:2,4.
- Sometimes trials are a method of correcting sin in God’s people: 1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:5-13
- Sometimes we are afflicted so we can experience God’s comfort in order to be able to pass that comfort on to someone else: 2 Corinthians 1:4-7.
- Suffering teaches obedience: Hebrews 5:8.
- Sometimes pressure brings out Christlike qualities that otherwise would not be seen: 2 Corinthians 4:10,11,17.
- The “why” of suffering and trial is between God and the individual.
This was repeated with an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then there was a fire - again, the Lord was not in the fire.
After those came a still small voice - and finally, Elijah met God.
(This piece was published right after the terrible tornado that hit Edmonton several years ago.)