I watched with a broken heart as scenes of the futility in Haiti were being flashed across the screen after the latest hurricane, Matthew, had devastated the country. Then to see the flooding in North Carolina and other places in this country and hear of the loss of life was painful. After such times and all kinds of other natural disasters, one question invariably arises. “Where is God in all this?” In some ways it is strange to me that when everything is going great and the sun is shining all around, no one asked, “Where is God in all this?” Quite frankly, in those times God is usually not mentioned at all. It is almost as if we look at times of beauty, warmth and flowers blooming and think, “That is as it should be” but when the storms arise and problems are galore, we begin to raise questions about God in it all.
But, if God loves us and wants what is best in our lives, why must there be times of storms, tragedy, hurt, pain and death? There was a time for humanity when it truly was beauty, flowers, fruit and blessing every day and no storms ever arose. It was called the Garden of Eden which God planted and placed Adam and Eve in it. The climate was so good they didn’t even need clothes. They had no need for locks on doors because the animals were friendly to the humans. That was the world God wanted for the people that He formed in his own image and likeness and to whom he gave authority over His creation. Amazingly, in that garden they were told they could freely eat of every tree in the garden. There was even the tree of life that they could eat of to give them youth and life forever. There was just one tree in all the garden that God said to them, “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the day you eat of it you will surely die.” Why would God put even one such tree in the Garden that would tempt people to sin? Because people were made in God’s image with the ability to choose right from wrong, good from evil. If there had been nothing they could have done that demanded a right choice then people would have been nothing more than animals with instinct or robots programed by God to do what he wanted. He made us with the ability to choose right. Anytime there is the ability to choose right, of necessity there must also be the ability to choose wrong. God longed for us to choose to love and serve Him and to have the amazing blessings He offers. Adam and Eve chose to eat of the one tree in all the garden that God told them not to eat of. The results were fatal. They were driven from the garden and death passed on humanity and everything else. Since then only one person, Jesus, has faced the temptations of life and not given in to sin to follow the pattern set by Adam and Eve.
Now we live in a world of both good and evil. It is both influenced by God in heaven and Satan in hell. There are spiritual forces of evil and good that are all about us. Ultimately, the choices we make in this life where we can clearly see the results of bad choices in the evil of the world and the results of good choices in all the beauty and wonder of the world, will lead to an eternity of either all that is good, beautiful and full of wonder or to an eternity where all is negative, ugly, evil and devastation. God doesn’t force anyone to go either way. He so longs for us to choose to live for him now that we may live with Him eternally in glory that He willingly paid the price for our sins through the death of Jesus on the cross. But even with that demonstration of love He made the offer and sent the good news into the world for people to hear of God’s love and grace and decide for themselves if they would live for Him or not.
Today we live in a time and situation where we are shown both through the evil deeds and through natural disaster what sin and evil in the world has produced. Every act of terror. Every murder. Every theft. Every act of genocide. Every abuse of a child or a wife. And every disaster shouts to us that the choice of evil has had devastating results. In a world that is affected by both evil and good both aspects have to be obvious for people to see the difference and to choose how they will live. Too often we look at the evil and determine the only way to stand against it is to attack evil with more evil, which never produces good but only multiplies the evil. With every disaster that takes place in the world, whether natural or from the evil hearts of vengeful people, there also stands an opportunity to demonstrate good and show what God longs to see in all of us. “If possible, so far as depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, if you enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18-21).
Where is God in it all? He is all around us. He is hurting with those who hurt. He is working through every effort to help the helpless. He is longing for everyone to see what evil in the hearts and lives of people produce in the world. He is working to change us for the better. Our choices in life have effects. Sin and evil in the world has tragic effects. In times of despair be one that God uses to help someone else and show some of the beauty that is there all the time.