Natural Disasters: Does God Want our Attention?

Natural Disasters: Does God Want our Attention?

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By Rev. Mark H. Creech , Christian Post Columnist
June 3, 2013 4:12 pm
 

According to Recent Natural Disasters, a web site that reports on ecological cataclysms around the world every day, approximately 75 natural disasters have occurred in America just in the last 5 months. [1] Those disasters happening in various degrees of destruction include earthquakes, floods, landslides, hail storms, sinkholes, wildfires, avalanches, and deadly tornadoes. This nation in recent years has seen a rush of such disasters as wind, fire, rain and drought conditions. And these catastrophes are not in America alone, but happening around the globe.

Various reasons are offered to explain the phenomena. Some argue its global warming. Others say it’s always been this way and the natural cycle of things, it’s only that the reporting is much better today and we hear about these events more often.

Still, anyone with a little age and experience, or any one simply willing to carefully consider matters, finds it a bit hard to believe that what’s been occurring of late is merely the natural cycle of things. The succession and intensity of these incidents have rightly caused people to sense something isn’t right in the earth, and the scientific data alone can’t effectively elucidate the cause.

Interestingly, the Old Testament book of Haggai describes a time much like our own, when the people of Israel were wondering why so many natural calamities had befallen them. Like many in our own day, they had considered every possible cause but God. Of course, they were too sophisticated, even to pious, to blame him. Yet God said to them:

“You counted on much; and see it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that is in ruins, while you each busy yourself with your own house. Therefore, for your sake the heavens have withheld the dew and the earth withheld its produce. I called for a drought upon the land, upon the mountains, upon the grain, upon the new wine, upon the oil, upon what the ground produces and upon men, upon cattle and upon all the labor of their hands” (Haggai 1:9-11, The New Berkley Version).

In other words, God himself didn’t hesitate to take the responsibility, saying, “I’m the reason you have experienced this terrible chain of horrific episodes – the storms – the drought – the scorching heat – the crop failures – the winds that blew everything away. I did it! And I did it because I wanted to get your attention about the way you have forgotten me and my business and focused exclusively on your own.

Certainly such explanations for the string of latest natural disasters, despite the fact that many of them have been apocalyptic in type, would soundly be rejected by most today – people who would never agree that God was somehow responsible. God is too loving, too kind, too compassionate, too gentle to ever do such a thing, they say.

This response brings to mind an old story about a farmer who was out in his field working a stubborn mule. The mule sat down in the mud and refused to budge. The farmer pushed and pulled, threatened and coaxed, but couldn’t move the mule an inch. A neighbor who was watching nearby came over to offer some advice. “I’ve been watching you now for a while,” said the neighbor. “And I think you may be going about this the wrong way.” In frustration the farmer quipped, “Well then, how in heaven’s name would you get this rascal mule out of the mud?” “Well,” said the neighbor, “you need to use kindness, you need to be loving, you need to show compassion, you need to be gentle with the dumb beast. Let me show you how it’s done.” At that point, the farmer moved aside and the neighbor took a baseball bat and hit the mule square in the head. “What are you doing?” shouted the farmer. You said to be kind, to be loving, to be gentle, to show compassion. “I fully intend to be,” said the neighbor. “But I’ve first got to get his attention.”

One needn’t think the natural disasters like the tornadoes that occurred recently in Oklahoma, or any other place where such tragic instances happen, ensue because the people in those locations are necessarily more wicked than others. Jesus warned against that kind of assessment in Luke 13:1-5, saying, “Unless you repent you will all similarly perish.” But this unusual barrage of climatic catastrophes extended over several years ought to be seen as a wake-up call – God’s attempt at getting our attention – the handwriting on the wall that God is ready to judge. God gets no pleasure in afflicting men. His actions are not retaliatory. His desire is to bless with kindness – to shelter, defend, and prosper. But if we insist on ignoring his Sovereignty, spurning his law, and exalting our own way paramount to his will, then we separate ourselves from the very source of all blessing.
God loves us too much to leave us that way without using whatever means necessary to move our gaze from downward to upward.

In 1787, George Mason, one of the largest plantation owners in Virginia, stated his views on national accountability before the Constitutional Convention:

“As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins, by national calamities.”

Perhaps the good news about God’s disciplining hand on America, or any other nation for that matter, is best described in another quote from Dr. Charles Stanley. Stanley writes:

“The intensity of the storm… can be determined by God based on our rebellion and indifference. But also the depth of brokenness required can be equaled to the degree of usefulness God sees in His purpose for us.” [2]

The series of disasters we are seeing – disasters of incredible force – cannot be naturally explained away. God is speaking. God is calling wayward people everywhere to himself. Perhaps if we hear that call nationally, if we heed his efforts to get our attention, greater hardship can be averted, and our best days are yet to come.

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2 thoughts on “Natural Disasters: Does God Want our Attention?”

  1. It’s a bit difficult for me to take this article seriously. Of course God can use everything and anything to get our attention. So why then choose a method that kills those whose attention he’s trying to get? The people who died in natural disasters, were they all so sinful that God could sacrifice them in order to get other people’s attention? Obviously not, because some children were killed. Why do we rush to put the blame on God and immediately discount the scientific explanations, i.e. global warming and/or long-term natural secular cycle? The author’s out of hand dismissal of the hypothesis that the recent glut of natural disasters has a natural as opposed to a supernatural explanation smacks of ignorance of the worst kind. It appears that the author is not conversant with the theory of global warming and its effects, nor with the cycles which the earth goes through. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church has long recognized that climate change is a problem which will lead to precisely the disastrous scenario being discussed. See here, 1) http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/statements/main-stat8.html, and here 2) http://www.adventistreview.org/article/1182/archives/issue-2007-1515/global-warming-should-christians-care.
    There are several good books on the subject of long-term changes in the climate, such as ‘The Great Divide: History and Human Nature in the Old World and the New’ by Peter Watson.

    The analogy of the mule also rankles. Mules don’t have the faculty of reason, or so I’ve heard. Humans, on the other hand do. Now, how did we get this faculty? Was it not given to us at creation? Why then is this article asking us to suspend it and accept that people respond better to being hurt/threatened than being embraced and loved? Is a hurt and terrified person more receptive to God than a person who is surrounded by evidence of his love? If we take the natural disasters which kill and terrify us as examples of God’s ‘love and care’, how do we distinguish then between God’s actions and the devil’s?

    I have two more questions: what does it mean to ‘turn to God’ and why does the author ask us to heed God’s call as a nation? Repenting in one’s heart as well as attending church is all well and good, but James 1:27 seems to indicate what a true and acceptable religion is: something practical and loving, caring for those whom society has marginalized. It does not consist of going into foreign countries and killing innocent civilians as the UK and the US have done over the past decade: that is actually more iniquitous than any social solecism which our liberal societies tolerate. Come to think of it, perhaps God IS indeed trying to get our attention. Perhaps he IS telling us to stop oppressing and killing people in foreign lands; to stop the relentless marginalization of those in our societies who are unable to help themselves, i.e. the poor, the disabled, the socially disadvantaged, which this current coalition government has engaged in, as well as the foreign workers who work under horrendous conditions just so we can satisfy our insensate lust for novelty and goods; to stop all the hierarchical and patriarchal posturing that Christians and other religious people engage in and actually accept the teaching of Galatians 3:28 that ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (NB. this sounds like full equality to me); to stop worrying about whether or not full civil equality for homosexuals will be enshrined in law, and to just love. It is time to heed 1 John 4:7 and just love.

  2. Thank you for your comment. Its quite an interesting topic. While some people will always want someone or something to be accountable when things go wrong, others will always want to live in the understanding that life is meaningless, that we’re just living in a cycle where things happen for no reason. When looking back to the Bible, we know that God has used natural disasters and great destruction not only as a consequence of sin, but also to demonstrate that the world is not how God intended us to live when we were created. It can be dangerous to try and attribute every consequence of a sinful world to God giving punishment or allowing bad things to happening to good people, because we won’t ever see the full picture. We can know for sure that rightly so, God is a God of love, and wants as many of us to be saved as possible. But rather than focus on who deserves what, we should focus on just being right with God first and foremost, and trusting that everything is in His hands and that if we stay connected to Him, then whatever tragedies may come over us, our salvation can be secure.

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