Whenever bad things happen, especially something on as huge and tragic a scale as the earthquake in Haiti, non-believers and believers in God alike question how God could let it happen. And depending on the answer to that question is the question of whether or not we should believe or continue believing in this God.
Devout Christians, to the consternation of some, are relentless in their determination to hold onto their beliefs no matter how bad things get. But, why should this be? Why is the faith of so many, so unshakable in times like these?
Christianity brings several things to the table that no other religion or philosophy does.
But first, the big question... why does God let it happen. And not surprisingly, I will tell you that I don't know. I think it might have something to do with freedom of choice and sin. But those are theological issues that most people don't want to be bothered with at a time like this. People just know they feel angry and they don't want to be bothered with deep theological issues. Totally understandable!
So, I'll give you my take on why I and millions of other Christians don't have their faith shaken in the face of such horrible tragedies and immense pain.
First and foremost in our thinking is that God is infinite and eternal and we're not. Therefore, we believe he must know things and see things that we don't. There may very well be an excellent explanation for all the pain and suffering we see and the fact that we may not know what it is doesn't mean it's not there.
Understandably though, that last paragraph will leave many still doubting. It's not a satisfying answer. Although, it is a true one.
More satisfying may be this. The Christian God is the only God who has said "I will suffer with you." He's not the only God who didn't explain suffering to our human satisfaction, but he is the only God who is demonstrably willing to suffer with us. In fact he, in the person of his son - Jesus Christ, suffered an excruciatingly painful and terribly unjust death. Much like those who have just died in Haiti. He suffered this unwarranted death on the cross. He had done no wrong. In fact, most people today believe that Jesus was one of the greatest teachers of all time. Yet his peers took this good man and in an unspeakable injustice decided that he must be executed.
This death was designed and planned by God to ultimately alleviate all of our pain and give each of us who wants it - a glorious resurrection and eternal life.
If the greatest evil in life is an excruciatingly tortuous death, then the greatest good would have to be a glorious resurrection and eternal life. Right?
Well, through the suffering of Christ, that glorious resurrection and eternal life are made possible for all. For everyone who believes in it and asks God for it! For everyone who sees their sin and knows they need help and forgiveness.
And that is why I'm convinced that Christians hold so steadfastly to their belief in God even in the midst of terrible tragedy. Because while we agree that the tragedy is terrible, we know that the most perfect antidote to these terrible tragedies is offered to us through Christ. The antidote is a glorious resurrection and eternal life.
No matter how bad things are, God offers the perfect antidote. God offers to make all things right. All he asks in return is that we believe that Christ is his Son and that he died for our sins and that we willingly agree to submit every area of our lives to his will. Yes, all that he asks, is that we give him our all.
Once we recognize our sins and our need for forgiveness, God rescues us and gives us the greatest possible gift... the gift that rights all wrongs... the gift of eternal life. No more death. No more pain. No more misery. It's all made right, forever!
That's a pretty good offer. And when backed up by the historical validity of the Bible, it becomes a pretty compelling offer.
Think about it for a minute. The Bible... was a book written by 40 people over a 1,500-year period. Some of its writers were well known and some unknown. All from various backgrounds and writing from their own personal perspective, yet the Bible has a consistent theme from start to finish.
How could that be possible? How could people writing 1,500 years ago write something that is perfectly consistent with what someone writes 1,500 years later? You might say that the future writers simply decided to invent a religion piggybacking on what those before them wrote. But this would involve people who never met and were separated by hundreds of years in time. I'm writing this in the year 2010. Why would anyone in the year 3510 care about continuing my agenda?
Let's consider quickly the founding documents of other religions. Most were written by a single person (or by the designated "writer" for those who couldn't write), who made claims to miraculous events all of which were unwitnessed by others. The Bible was written by 40 separate individuals, all making similar claims to events and happenings that were witnessed by many.
It's easy for someone to go into seclusion and come out a few weeks later with stories of miraculous things that happened to them. But it's very difficult to make bogus claims if everything you claim was witnessed by many people.
And speaking of historical reliability, check this out... for Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars, we have only ten copies of the original document and the earliest copy was made 1,000 years after the original! Yet no one questions the reliability of those copies.
Compare that to the 24,000+ New Testament manuscripts, the earliest one dating to within 24 years of Christ's life!
From a historical perspective the Bible provides one of the most well-documented accounts of history that we have. And all of the historical events recounted in the Bible that can be confirmed by outside sources have always been confirmed to have taken place exactly as the Biblical account related. No historical account found in the Bible that could be proven or disproven has ever been disproven.
And that's a look at the past. How about a look at the future? How many writers do you know who have ACCURATELY predicted 668 events and never gotten a single one wrong? And predicted them with a great degree of specificity and didn't even get any of the specifics wrong?
Well, that's the track record of Biblical prophecy. Just as one example, 400-1000 years before Jesus was born, the Old Testament predicted many aspects of his life and death in great detail. These predictions were made by many different individual writers over a several-hundred year time span.
Included in these prophecies were the town where he would be born and the method by which he would die. The Old Testament writers predicted Jesus' hands and feet would be pierced, that he would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, that he would be spat upon and beaten, that he would stand silently before his accusers, that he would be crucified with thieves, that his side would be pierced, that none of his bones would be broken, that he would be buried in a rich man's tomb!
Is that enough!? Could you predict with that amount of specificity the life of someone in the year 3010 and not be wrong on a single detail? Or could you accurately predict some of the details now and another person accurately predicted more details 217 years ago and yet another will predict more details in 130 years and you all three get it exactly right!?
We have copies of the Old Testament that are dated more than 100 years before the birth of Christ (the Dead Sea Scrolls). So we know for certain that the Old Testament was written long before he was born. And we know for certain that many of these prophecies were fulfilled in the life of Jesus.
People often derisively say that Christians have to take a LEAP of faith to believe in God. Well, after looking at all the evidence, it's really more like taking a step of faith -- a tiny little baby step!
Like anyone else I am crushed by all the pain and tragedies we experience on earth. Yet Christians are asked to provide real tangible help and consolation to others in their time of suffering. And a major part of that help is to share with those who are suffering, a way by which they can never suffer again. In fact a way by which all their current suffering will be redeemed and made good! The biggest thing a Christian can do to help those who are suffering is to help them understand that redemption for all their suffering is available through Christ.
Maybe I should just let Dostoevsky explain what I'm trying to say here. He says it so much more eloquently!
"I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they've shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened."
--Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
I know that when I broke my neck, --and I was facing death and a lifetime of paralysis.. The first thing I did was repent and turn to God. I knew that it wasn't His fault that my neck was broken.. I knew that I was going to die without Him.. and I didn't want that. And........... He gave me a miracle. Just like He will do for anybody who turns to Him.
It took a brain tumor to open my eyes. Faith in God is its own grace. If you do not have it, no one can give it to you. If you possess it, no one can take it away. Faith in an eternal God imparts eternal life.
I'm not sure, myself, if God is responsible for such occurrences in the world. I'm not saying that He's not capable, but I believe that things like earthquakes are legitimately natural events, not supernatural. I feel that God is sad when things like this happen, and I'm willing to bet He hopes the people that survive will turn to Him for comfort and strength to overcome, rather than curse Him for letting such a thing happen.
After having said that, though... hmm, perhaps God DOES make these things happen. But I would think it is because He is testing us. It reminds me of the story of Job, how he had everything a man could want, it seemed, and even when God took all away from him, he still loved and remained loyal to God. And of course, there are the people like Job's own wife, who in the anguish from all the tragedy and hardship that she was placed in, was willing to turn her back on God and curse Him for all she had lost.
Hmm, this is interesting to think about!