I often hear words from people who try to explain these disasters and the thought occurs to me is that we are so cavalier with our words. "Why do we say things like this without knowing if the other person is grieving for a loss?" I thought. We glibly shake our heads and say, "God is punishing us," while the other person is pierced through with our thoughtless words.
I remember something Jesus said in reference to tragedies that have long since been forgotten, but were very fresh on the minds of people hearing his words, "Do you think those people (killed by Pilate) were more guilty than anyone else? I tell you no, but unless you repent you will perish. Or do you think those 18 people who were killed (by the collapsing tower) were more guilty than anyone else? I tell you no, but unless you repent, you will perish." Luke 13:1-5
Jesus also told us the rain falls on the just as well as the unjust. How can we claim to know that these disasters are heralding the apocalypse or that the Lord God is punishing us when these things have been happening in various degrees since before Jesus came to earth as a man? On the other hand, I know by reading the Old Testament, the Lord told Israel that if they weren’t obedient to Him, bad things would happen.
If I put myself in the shoes of those who have lost loved ones, I don’t know if I’d be as righteous as Job was when he got the news all of his children had been killed at the same time. In grief he tore his clothes, but still spoke words of faith in his pain, "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Its one thing to lose all possessions, but to lose all the kids all at the same time too? And when we read Job, we see that his friends were voicing the same declarations as we hear so often today. God condemned Job’s friends, while declaring Job righteous, even though he had to chastise Job a little.
My point is that we who are human cannot claim to know why things happen. Our job is to exemplify God’s love and care for others, to draw people to his love. It seems to me that when we castigate others, we are examples of the Pharisees Jesus condemned rather than Jesus himself.
We can’t know the mind of God. Isaiah wrote, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord, ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,’” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
When it comes down to it, perhaps we are the guilty ones: guilty of misrepresenting God with our presumptuous, harmful words. I guess it would do well to listen again to the chapter we often call the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become a sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love is patient and kind. love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the Truth wins out.
Love never gives up, never losses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!
Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!
But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.
All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love."