“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
It’s second nature to wonder from time to time why God allows us to suffer the way we do. It is often asked especially now when so many hurricanes seem to hit the southern United States. One that did the most damage, Katrina, hit New Orleans back in 2005. It’s one that we will all remember because of the loss of life and damage that was caused. How many times did we hear it said, “How could a loving God allow such death and destruction?” Think carefully about how you respond because if you’re a Christian, your answer to that question may form the basis for someone’s decision to accept, or not to accept, Christ.
The Bible says that we should “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) Unfortunately, too few churches help us prepare to answer the questions we heard not just back in 2005, but many times since. Please accept these helpful hints in the spirit in which they are offered.
First and foremost, it’s OK to say, “I don’t know.” Frankly, it’s not that bad of an answer when you stop and think about it. In fact, it’s biblical. For example, God told the prophet Isaiah at Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” In other words, we don’t have the capacity to understand why God allows things to happen like he does.
Instead of trying to make someone think we have the market cornered on why God does what he does, why don’t we just admit that we don’t have all the answers? Isn’t that what the Apostle Paul meant when he defined faith as “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
I remember hearing some Christians declare that Katrina in 2005, Gustav in 2008, and Hurricane Ida this year in New Orleans are the result of all the evil that exists there. After all, there is a great affinity for voodoo, witchcraft, and the like in New Orleans. But, I think it’s a little arrogant of us to believe that one city’s evil nature is any worse than our own. There’s a great Scripture that more than makes my point: “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:5) But for Jesus’ death on the cross, we are all evil in the eyes of the Lord.
It’s important to keep in mind that the devastation we saw back in 2005 in New Orleans had less to do with Hurricane Katrina and more to do with the failure of the system of levies that had protected the city for over a hundred years. Years earlier, their own newspaper, The Times-Picayune, predicted that the levy system was too old and too fragile to withstand the effects of a major hurricane. In short, what happened in New Orleans came as no surprise to the experts.
We all live with the consequences of poor choices. Galatians 6:7 reminds us that we will reap what we sow. Unfortunately, much of the devastation and many of the deaths in New Orleans came from fact that all levels of government had been ignoring the warning signs for years. It is now an understatement to say it was just a poor choice — it was a deadly choice.
I wrote a column several years ago about suffering and now close with the very same conclusion I used then.
When suffering comes our way, we focus far too much on why it happened. Instead, we should ask ourselves what do I do now, and who is there to help me do it? Only then can we begin to look to God for help and stop holding him responsible for all the unfair things that happen in this world. The Psalmist said it his way. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills — From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalms 121:1-2)