As soon as I heard the news this morning, my initial response was that I got worried for the safety of one of my elder brothers in Japan. I immediately rushed into my facebook account to check if he's safe, and to my relief, he seems so. He admitted to have felt some shaking but thank God he wasn't hurt. I was more appeased when I learned that the place where he stays at (which is in Nagoya City) is considerably far from the epicenter of the quake and from the horrifying tsunami attack that followed it. Praise the Lord!
God is good, indeed. All the time He is (Psa. 145:17).
But wait. If God is good and infinitely merciful to all mankind as preachers in the pulpit project He is, why did God, in the first place, let these catastrophes to occur? Tomorrow, dead people in Japan will be scattered over and under the rubble and shreds of their own properties destroyed by the tsunami. Stinking corpses will be filling the streets (if ever there were any streets left), and those who managed to survive will have to go through countless days and nights of emotional torment over their lost possessions and loved ones.
Why all the evil things if God is good and He's in full control? If He could have stopped the calamity from happening, why didn't He? And why were innocent people involved if God's purpose was just to bring judgment to the wicked? Where's justice in that? "In every thing give thanks" (1 Thes. 5:18, KJV); but how can we give thanks to God when things are not going well?
These questions strike right at the very character of God. The same questions lingered in my mind back in 2004 when India was struck with the same kind of catastrophe that hit Japan yesterday. The only solution I could come up with at that time was to blame it all to Satan because it seemed inconceivable to me that an infinitely just and holy God could have caused such a horrifying disaster to devastate innocent poor people. But then I faced another problem: Whatever happened to the sovereignty of God if He wasn't able do anything to stop Satan from doing harm to humans? Who's more powerful then? God or Satan?
These questions were not resolved in my mind until I began diligently studying the Scriptures and consequently became a Calvinist two years ago. I found out that God is completely sovereign over all His creation and that (shockingly) it is He himself who causes disasters for His own glory! (Rom. 11:36). Thus says the Lord: "Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?" (Am. 3:6); and again He said, "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things" (Isa. 45:7). It is God who "works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Eph. 1:11).
Now, does this make God a cruel monster who unjustly and capriciously harms his innocent and helpless creatures? Far from it. In the first place, innocent people do not really exist (Rom. 3:10). All are born sinners, totally unworthy before God, and are deserving of both temporal and eternal misfortunes (Psa. 51:5). This being said, God can therefore send hundreds of tsunamis everyday to every cities in the world, killing billions of people, and yet remain holy and just. Well in fact, we are all fit to receive the worst disaster God can dish out because of our sins, which is, namely, eternal punishment in hell! (Psa. 130:3, 143:2; Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:13-14).
Calamities happen according to God's purposes and plan (Prov. 16:4). What exactly these purposes are, we don't know, and I doubt we could ever fully fathom them had they been laid down before us over the table. Nevertheless, the Bible assures us that the "LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works" (Psa. 145:17, KJV). This is why Paul entreats us to be thankful in everything (Eph. 5:20; 1 Thes. 5:18) because he is convinced that the Lord, who is righteous in all His ways, is fully in control and that He knows what He's doing. "Oh, the depth," Paul wrote, "of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?' 'Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen" (Rom. 11:33-36).
We who are sitting comfortably at home with no worries to bother about are NO BETTER than the Japanese, the Indians, the Haitians, and all who suffer terrible natural calamities (Luk. 13:1-5). It is simply out of God's patience and mercy that we, on this other side of the planet, are being spared from such devastating catastrophes that some suffer (Rom. 2:4, 9:15). So instead of questioning God's goodness and justice, we should rather be grateful that He withholds from us by His grace the infelicities that we rightly deserve (Jon. 4:2).
Let us therefore earnestly pray that God will show mercy on Japan. Let's weep with those who weep, praying for the lives that can be saved and for the families who have lost loved ones now in sorrow. Let us also pray that this disaster may be used to call the people of Japan to the Lord as their only hope and refuge.
May God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen!