Note: This article has been excerpted from the SmallGroups.com training tool called Answering Tough Questions.
Major natural disasters are often described as being "of biblical proportions." That description raises profound questions about the nature and power of God—questions you're likely to be asked as a small-group leader, particularly if the disaster occurs close to home.
Many were troubled by the tragic tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in late 2004 and killed nearly 300,000 people. Theologian and bishop Tom Wright expressed the confusion and despair of many when he said: "What's the point in saying, 'The heavens declare the glory of God,' if tidal waves declare his incompetence?"
In the West, it is easy to think of nature as serene and safe—the way that many people who enjoy the comforts of the modern world experience it. We are used to nature when and how we like it. But natural disasters are faith-shakers. As one commentator wrote in 2004: "God, if there is a God, should be ashamed of himself. The sheer enormity of the Asian tsunami disaster—the death, destruction, and havoc it has wreaked, the scale of the misery it has caused—must surely test the faith of even the firmest believer."
Dealing With a Mystery
Edward Spence, an Australian philosopher, observes: "Ultimately, the problem of evil confronts us not as a puzzle to be solved but as a mystery to be experienced." Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams notes this experience in the lives of those who serve the victims: "The odd thing is that those who are most deeply involved … are most aware of two things: a kind of strength and vision just to go on; and a sense of the imperative for practical service and love. ...