We awoke Tuesday morning to the terrible news of the tornado outbreak that struck Nashville, Mt. Juliet, and Putnam County. In the middle of the night, as a front passed through the mid-state, perhaps the most terrifying of all storms, nocturnal tornadoes left a wide swath of destruction. As the week has pasted, our screens have been plastered with images of destroyed homes, business, and school. But we’ve also seen the number 25, a number that represents the total dead, yet cannot capture the totality of their lives. We’ve seen their pictures, we’ve heard their names and we’ve read their stories. While contractors can rebuild broken buildings, but broken hearts can only be healed by God.
It’s not uncommon in times such as these that people ask such questions as: Where was God? Why didn’t He save these people? Why did He let this happen? The sadness and heartache can even test the strongest of faiths. These are tough questions no doubt and they require faithful answers. That’s what we’ll do as we consider the topic When Nature Rages: A Biblical Perspective on Natural Disasters and the Christian’s Response.
** While this sermon applies to a particular disaster that struck our area of Middle Tennessee, this lesson can be adapted to fit most any tragedy.
- Three Foundational Facts about God and His Creation:
- God is good (Mark 10.18)
- He is creator (Genesis 1.1)
- Therefore, our good God is in control of His creation
- In response to Job and his friends God demonstrates His power and authority by highlighting His control over creation (Job 38-41).
- Jesus holds the creation together because as God He controls the creation (Colossians 1.16-17).
- Examples and Reasons of Natural Disasters in the Bible:
- The Flood – For Judgement (Genesis 6.17)
- Famine, Drought, Blight, Pestilence – For Repentance (Amos 4.6-13)
- Hail Storm – For Deliverance (Joshua 10.11)
- Earth Quake – Death and Resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 27.51; 28.2)
- Windstorm – Used by Satan to Tempt Job (Job 1.18-22)
- Any disaster – Time and Chance (Ecclesiastes 9.11-12)
- There are many more examples we could cite but these will suffice to show that there are many different reasons God has used or allowed natural disasters to occur.
- Why did God allow THIS disaster?
- There are no easy answers or simple platitudes that will suffice to answer the question why did God allow THIS disaster happen.
- Unlike the examples we just cited, we don’t have divine revelation as to the reason for this disaster.
- Why did Josh, Erin and Sawyer Kimberlin die? Then a few doors down, why was little four year old Hatti Collins ripped from her parent’s arms? Then not far away from these deaths, how come the Grooms family survived, despite the fact they’re home was completely blown away. How does one make sense of this?
- Eric Grooms said it this way, “God just put His hand down and said nope you’re not taking these today. I mean literally you take the floor and the house and leave the people. Nobody can do that but God. Nobody.” So true.
- Even without clear answers as to who lives and who dies and the why behind a disaster, we still trust our God and worship Him just as Job did when tragedy befell him (Job 1.20-21).
- In the end, no matter the reason for the disaster, God will show His glory through any tragedy (cf. John 9.1-3). David Begnaud, a reporter for CBS, said this, “There was a resilience that seemed to bond them [the people of Cookeville] together which was inspiring to me… Every single person I talked to mentioned God.” God is showing His glory.
- How should Christians response to natural disasters?
- WEEP WITH THOSE WHO WEEP. It’s easy to become detached from the world around us, but God calls us to empathize with those who hurt (Romans 12.15; Hebrews 13.3).
- HELP THOSE IN NEED. It’s also a time for us to help those who have lost so much. We certainly help the brethren (Acts 11.27-30) but our hearts must extend to all persons who need assistance (Galatians 6.10).
- DRAW NEAR TO GOD. James 4:8 reminds us to, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Disasters should lead us to draw closer to God.
- Psalm 46.1-3 with hyperbolic language regarding natural disasters, the Psalmist calls for us to turn to God as our “refuge and strength.”
- As with many disasters, some people live and some people die within close proximity to each other. No doubt God was with those who “miraculously” survived, but He was also with those who died in faith. He is the “refuge and strength” of the living and the dead.
- Clint Pit said of his sister Erin and her family, “As terrible as it sounds they wouldn’t want to live without each other. They’re all together not and that’s all we can really ask for.” God was their refuge.
- CONSIDER OUR OWN SPIRITUAL STATE. Our lives our short. We appear for a while and then we vanish away (James 4.13-17).
- In response to a political and structural disaster of His time, Jesus challenges us to look past the why a disaster happened to what our response should be (Luke 13.1-5).
- Whether it’s a nocturnal tornado, or an earthquake, or a raging fire, or perhaps a car wreck, etc. our lives can, and are, upended in the blink of an eye. When tragedy strikes someone else, we must take stock of our own spiritual state because it could be us next.
Ever since sin entered the world, disasters have been a part of the human experience. We won’t always be able to make sense of why they happen but we can look to our good God for help to see us through. For He is “our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth give way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).