An earthquake killed 12,000 people in Chengdu, China, yesterday. There are another 62,000 dead or missing in Myanmar, according to their government, from a cyclone May 3. The UN predicts that there could be more than 100,000 dead. The UN has has also reported that possibly up to 40% of those killed in Myanmar were children.
I have friends who are students at the University of Nebraska, who are from Chengdu and whose families still live and work there. As far as I know, their families are okay. How sobering it was to hear my friend tell me yesterday, “I called all my relatives. No one answered. I was so scared.” It turned out that his family members were okay. Just think, though, if that were to happen to your hometown. It’s a bone-chilling thought, isn’t it?
Through it all, I can’t help but wonder how many people are asking, “Where is God?” The question is not “Where is God?” I believe that God is in their midst, mourning with them the loss of loved ones. He is in their midst, wooing certain persons to himself. The question we should ask is, “What is God doing in a disaster like this?” (I wrote on this subject a while ago — you might find it helpful.) But if we think about those questions, we cannot ask the first one. If we believe the Bible is infallible and inspired, then God never leaves room for the question, “Where is God?” The Bible makes it clear: He alone is Sovereign and he ordained these events to happen. He did it for his glory, according to his secret will.
Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? (Lam. 3:37-39)
Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has done it? (Amos 3:6)
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things (Is. 45:7).
And from the mouth of our Lord Jesus himself:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).
It’s clear that God has not simply “allowed” these disasters. He, in his infinite, mysterious will, has caused them to happen. And he didn’t do it because the people were “worse sinners.” God did it to show his power; to display his mighty glory; to show how imperfect the world is; to show his great mercy on those who survived — or on us who are unaffected; and to draw our attention to himself, that we might embrace the only thing that will never die, flood, break, rust, or rot, namely Jesus.
When disaster strikes, turn to Jesus and be astonished that though you are a great sinner, calamity has not fallen upon your head yet. Be amazed at the mercy of God that you are still hanging by the thread of sovereign grace that God provides. When disaster strikes, fall on your face, worship and repent before the great God who ordains everything in the universe to come to pass.
Come to me all who labor and are heavey laden. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).