Is God to Blame for Natural Disasters?

You might need answers to this tough question sooner than you think.

Note: This article has been excerpted from the 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.

Faith-Shaking Events

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. ...

article Preview

This article is currently available to subscribers only. To continue reading:

free newsletter

Sign up for our free Small Groups Newsletter newsletter: Regular access to innovative training resources, Bible-based curriculum, and practical articles.


Bible Study Basics: Galatians
Get back to basics with the truth of the gospel.
God's Nature: The Trinity
Learn about God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in this 3-session study.
Serving God in Our Jobs
Encouraging your group members with a biblical theology of work
Is Your Gospel Too Narrow?
The gospel is about more than where we go when we die—it should affect how we live.
The Danger of Pragmatism
Why small-group staff must keep theology and praxis in the correct order
What the Bible Really Says About Hell
Bill Hybels, Timothy Keller, and Timothy Peck give us their perspective on this weighty topic.