When God Sends Disaster

Wisdom's Friend

When God Sends Disaster

If anyone thinks that because God is love (1 Jn. 4:16) that he therefore would never send a disaster upon anyone, especially those who trust in him, then consider the Book of Job. That one book should forever dispel the misconception of a God of love never letting anything bad happen to those he loves. In a short period of time, Job suddenly suffered the loss of his children, his wealth, his health, and almost the loss of his faith in God. If that isn’t a disaster, I don’t know what is. And this all happened under the direct permission of this God who is love (Job 1:12, Job 2:6).

This is not as hard to understand as some make it out to be. Parents especially know all about the necessity, at times, to let their beloved children suffer pain of different kinds. The wise king Solomon made this exact connection: “The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Prov. 3:12 NIV).

Yet there are those in our world today who believe that a loving parent would never allow their children to suffer any negative experience, and certainly not at their own hand. Wise king Solomon had an observation on this approach, too, saying of the child reared in such fashion, “He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly” (Prov. 5:23 NIV).

How is allowing one’s own child to die a needless death a demonstration of love? Rather, it is as great a folly as the offspring’s needless death, a blindness to the need for appropriate discipline in every child’s life, because every child is born with a sinful nature that, left undisciplined, will eventually show itself against God and the eternal well being of that undisciplined soul.

God is our perfectly loving Father. As such, he knows the need for appropriate discipline for each of his children (Dt. 8:5). The key word is appropriate. Not only does the need and degree of discipline vary for each individual human being, so too does it vary over the life of that individual, some periods requiring more discipline, some less, until the desired maturity is reached (Eph. 4:13, James 1:4).

Adonijah, one of king David’s sons, is an example of the danger of not disciplining a child. For Scripture says that, “his father had never interfered with him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?'” (1 Kings 1:6 NIV). It is not surprising, therefore, that after he had grown up, this same Adonijah rebelled against his father and tried to take the kingdom for himself (1 Kings 1:5). A person used to having his way as a child can easily expect the same in adulthood.

Good parents know these things. Therefore, it is unfair to know these facts of life and expect them to function thus in the relationships between earthly fathers and their children, and yet somehow think that our heavenly Father and his relationship with his children to be any different. In fact, this earthly relationship is the way it is because it is modeled after the heavenly one (Heb. 12:7-10).

So, hopefully anyone who takes a look into what God says about all this in his Book will easily see that God as heavenly Father is no different, in this respect, than an earthly father: Both, in their wisdom, see and know the value and importance of sometimes letting their children go through and experience difficult things that the parent could remove, if he thought it in the best interests of the child. But wisdom knows that a life devoid of instruction through practical, real challenges is a life in danger of going astray, as did that of Adonijah. And no loving parent wants that for his or her child.

Therefore, it should not be surprising to hear the following words recorded in Scripture concerning God’s sending disaster upon people:

“In his wisdom, he will send great evil on his people and will not change his mind” (Isaiah 31:2 TLB).

There are three parts to this short message, and each reveals an important aspect to those who wonder about God’s character when bad things happen to them or to others. Each of these three parts is examined below.

(1) God’s Wisdom

First, this message from God to us begins by saying, “In his wisdom. . . .” Why begin the message in this way? Because when we are in the midst of suffering, and wondering why God let this happen to us, it is very easy to question God’s goodness and his wisdom. We question because we do not understand. But is it really wisdom to question the infinitely wise God? It is understandable to do so, but is it wise? Think back about what was said earlier about the earthly father disciplining his son for a good reason, to teach and mold the child. Does not that father have more wisdom than the child? He sees things the questioning child does not.

I like C.S. Lewis’s example of a situation where perhaps a thorn with a barb is stuck in a child’s flesh or in a dog. It hurts. Yet the wise adult knows that the best way to remove the cause of that pain is to inflict a little more pain by pushing the thorn yet deeper into the flesh so that the barb is visible in a farther section of the finger or paw and can be removed so that the thorn can then be withdrawn. The solution to removing the pain and its cause is to do something that momentarily adds yet more pain to the suffering victim. The pertinent question arises, What is the one thing that will prevent this solution from taking effect? Why would a child or dog let this outsider inflict yet more pain upon it? To their limited understanding, it makes no sense. Therefore, they ordinarily would not submit to this action. But there is one thing that can change their mind and enable them to submit to this seemingly senseless action: trust. If they trust the person telling them that this painful procedure will indeed remedy the situation, then they will allow the adult to go ahead. Trust makes all the difference.

Think of our relationship with God. What is the one thing that is constantly referred to in Scripture as the key ingredient in relating to God? It is trusting God, or faith. We even call our relationship with God, the Christian faith. Faith and/or trust is constantly spoken of throughout the Scripture because it is the crucial, key ingredient both to being saved and for living a victorious life in this world. So crucial, in fact, is this matter of faith/trust that it says it is the only thing that matters at all:

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal. 5:6 NIV).

It is like when Jesus was asked what was the single most important thing of all, and he replied that it was to know (have faith in) God (Mk. 12:29) and to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves (live out that faith in our lives)–(Mark 12:28-34). Real, true faith–a faith that is genuine and lived out, not just mental acceptance–is what it is all about. It is who we are meant to be.

But who we are meant by God to be and who we are at any one time are not necessarily the same thing. There is a process of growth that must be gone through to attain that maturity that God desires for us to have. And part of that maturing process includes some unpleasant things that we must go through, experience. The wise parent, whether heavenly or earthly, knows this and takes us through it safely, for our own good and benefit (Ps. 66:12). This is wisdom.

(2) God’s Sending Disaster

The second part of the message from the Isaiah passage says that God “will send great evil on his people.” Why? The short answer is, “because he loves his people.” It has already been noted above that many people cannot see the love and logic behind such things. They are so enveloped by the limited, human, worldly way of looking at things that the higher and infinitely better ways of God escape them (Is. 55:8-9, 2 Cor. 5:16). It is a sad truth that sometimes we sinful human beings do not pay attention either to our earthly fathers or our heavenly one. We do things we should not and if we keep on doing them, we stray off into ever more harmful ways, until we wind up in extreme danger of our souls. The loving parent steps in to try to show us our folly. Sometimes, the only way this can be done is through extreme measures. The more extreme we rebel and the farther we stray, the more extreme are the measures the parent must take to wake up the rebel child and bring them back to sense and safety.

God’s Word is full of examples of God warning his wayward children of their folly and sinful straying away from him. God sent his prophets time after time to warn his children, but they paid no mind and would not listen (Jer. 25:4). Therefore, though it pained him to do so, God then had no choice but to increase the pressure on them to open their eyes and see the reality of what they were doing. If gentle prodding is not enough, God is forced to use stronger measures. It is as Eliphaz told Job in the midst of his railing against God:

“Are God’s consolations not enough for you, words spoken gently to you? Why has your heart carried you away, and why do your eyes flash, so that you vent your rage against God and pour out such words from your mouth?” (Job 15:11-13 NIV).

Saint Paul also knew the necessity of sometimes going beyond gentler confrontation of the wayward to stronger methods:

“I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others. . . . This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority–the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down (2 Cor. 13:2, 10 NIV).

Paul was a good father to those in the churches under his authority (1 Cor. 4:15, 2 Cor. 11:28). Oh, what wisdom he displayed in his words here. He did not lord it over the church members because of his authority, but used that authority, or just threatened to use it when that was sufficient, for their own welfare, their building up, not their tearing down. In this, he is like our Lord, who does all such needed disciplinary actions in the same way and with the same motive, for our building up, not in vengeful punishment. For God, as our loving Father, does not willingly afflict those whom he loves so much that he gave his only Son to provide a means to escape his righteous wrath (Lam. 3:33).

What should be our response to all this, then? We would do well to heed the words of the psalmist:

“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him” (Ps. 32:9,10 NIV).

So we are back to the matter of trust. Those who trust in the God who sometimes has to send difficult experiences for his children’s welfare, find that he brings them through such times to a place of greater life and abundance then existed in their lives before that troubling experience.

“You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance” (Ps. 66:12 NIV).

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Is. 43:2 NIV).

Now consider the amazing words of another of our brethren:

“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 1:2-4 NIV).

I have to admit that I have not yet reached the level of maturity here spoken of, since I do not always consider it pure joy to go through the hard times of life. But I trust in the power of the Holy Spirit of my Lord Jesus Christ to continue to change me and mold into such a view of things. And since harder things are yet to fall upon this earth in these last days, it is wisdom to have such a view of things.

“All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (Phil. 3:15 NIV).

(3) No Change of Mind Possible

That brings us to the third and final portion of the message from the Isaiah passage, that when God is forced by our continued sinful rebellion to send extreme measures to turn us back to him, “he will not change his mind.” (also as in Jer. 15:39). Why will he not change his mind? Because we have not changed our mind. It is true that God’s intention to send severe punishment upon a people for its sin can sometimes be averted when that people prays to God to relent, prays for his mercy (Jer. 18:8, Jer. 26:3). But always, that relenting is contingent upon the people’s true repentance, turning aside from its evil ways. If there is no turning aside, back to following God, then there is no turning aside by God either. He will give the people what they deserve. For there does come a time when all opportunity for forgiveness and escape from punishment disappears; the door is shut (Mt. 25:10-12).

The prophet Amos saw three visions of terrible afflictions falling upon the people. After seeing the first and the second visions, he pleaded with the Lord not to send such terrible disasters, and each time the Lord relented (Amos 7:1-6).

But there was something different about the third vision:

“This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD asked me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ ‘A plumb line,’ I replied. Then the Lord said, ‘Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer'” (Amos 7:7-8 NIV).

Here, there is no mention by God of any possibility of him not bringing to pass what was in that third vision. What is it that makes this third vision so different from the first two that God could not alter its inevitability? The answer is that the third vision concerns itself with the very character of God, and that character cannot change (Heb. 13:8, James 1:17, Mal. 3:6). God is truth. Unalterable, unchangeable, absolute, eternal Truth. He is the great plumb line of truth by which all else is measured (see The Plumb Line of God). Therefore, those who, after all the many milder proddings of God to come to him who is this unalterable, unchanging truth, still refuse to accept that truth, they will find themselves beyond any further possibility to escape the just wrath of God over that refusal. There comes a time when the possibility for repentance, forgiveness, and salvation comes to a close.

“Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say. When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cummin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way. Caraway is not threshed with a sledge, nor is a cartwheel rolled over cummin; caraway is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a stick. Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever. Though he drives the wheels of his threshing cart over it, his horses do not grind it.
All this also comes from the LORD Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom” (Is. 28:23-29 NIV).

Ah! Wisdom, again! In his wisdom, God sends varying degrees and levels of difficult times and disasters upon a person and a people, each in accordance with the personality of that person and that people, just as a farmer uses varying levels of might upon different grains to get at the valuable heart beneath the outer coating. So it is with this world and its accountability before God. The time for harvesting is close upon us. Each will receive at the hand of the Lord whatever that person’s life and actions deserves (Jer. 17:10).

This is the righteous judgment of the Lord; as a righteous judge, he cannot do otherwise. Nevertheless, he has given a way for us to escape his righteous wrath, through repentance and trust in his Son, Jesus Christ.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it'” (Isaiah 30:15 NIV).

How this breaks the heart of our Lord. For he does not wish to send the terrible disasters of the last days upon the earth. Rather, “The LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Is. 30:18 NIV).

In man’s folly (Prov. 19:3), he does evil, not good (Ps. 52:3, Jer. 4:22), and does not change his mind (Rev. 16:9, Rev. 16:11).

Therefore, hear the words of the prophet Isaiah concerning God’s response to this:

“In his wisdom, he will send great evil on his people and will not change his mind” (Isaiah 31:2 TLB).

The only comfort or reassurance in all this is for those who have surrendered their destiny to Jesus. For them, there is this message from Isaiah in these last days:

“Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer” (Is. 26:20-21 NIV).

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