The disaster in Japan raises the question of suffering and how to deal with it.

We are not used to massive disasters like that in Canada.  We have gone through big floods and forest fires; but usually there is not the extensive loss of life and breakdown of ordinary life that we see in Japan today.

I can’t imagine what it is like to see your house washed away and many close family members and friends disappear in an earthquake and tsunami.

Some might say: “If there is a God, he should have prevented it.”

I can see the logic behind that view.  The idea is that God’s role is to keep us pain-free.  Another thought might be that God is not much of a god if he can’t prevent disasters.

But is that what God is all about?

Jesus was God in man’s flesh and he did not lead a pain-free life.  In fact, he intentionally suffered to bring spiritual freedom to people.

It is hard, of course, for people who do not believe in God to accept this. They see pain and suffering as inherently evil.  They see nothing good coming out of it.

As a Christian, I can’t say I rejoice when I’m suffering.  And yet, scripture declares that good can come out of suffering if it makes us more like Christ.

The apostle James even went so far as to say: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-3)

Even though I still grumble when trouble comes,  I accept the point James is making – the important thing in our lives is our characters.  Are we becoming like Jesus?

So does God create natural disasters just to beat us into submission?

No, I believe that evil and suffering entered the world when our distant ancestors long ago rejected God and made themselves mini-gods.  Satan exploited their selfishness and the world changed.

Ever since, God has been pursuing us in love.  He wants to bring us back to himself so that we can find the love and fulfilment that we had with him in the beginning.

For the most part, we’ve been pretty good at fending him off.

However, it is often in pain that we find God.  When we are helpless, we are open to his love.


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