Divine Punishment?

Last night I watched a recent interview of a pastor being interviewed to promote his book. The interviewer started with the following question:

“Before we talk about your book, help us with the tragedy in Japan, which is true: either God is all-powerful and doesn’t care about the people of Japan or He cares about the people of Japan but He isn’t all-powerful?”

The correct answer isn’t even given as one of the options!

This question would be like asking my wife: “Is Eric a jerk or is Eric a wimp?”  I would like to think neither of these true. 🙂

The correct answer: God both cares for the people of Japan, and He is all-powerful.

When the fallen nature of our world leads to pain, devastation, and loss, it is easy to blame God. The media and even our insurance companies refer to these tragedies as “acts of God.”

In other instances, we blame those who are suffering like the governor of Tokyo who suggested that it was the greed of the Japanese which brought this “divine punishment.”  Shintaro Ishihara later apologized saying: “(The remarks) hurt victims, Tokyo residents and victims…. I deeply apologize.”

So to follow the same either/or framework, either it is God’s fault or it is the fault of the people of Japan.

The truth is so much more complicated than blaming God like the interviewer implied or blaming the people like the governor did.

When facing tragedies like this, here are some principles I’ve found to be true:

God loves us, and He is all-powerful. Sometimes He protects us in ways we do not even know. Maybe things could have been far worse had God not intervened? 

God loves us, and He is all-powerful. When we grieve, He grieves.

God loves us, and He is all-powerful. As a result, He gives us freedom. This freedom means we make choices which may have painful results. (Apparently Japanese officials were warned two years ago that some of their nuclear sites would not fare well in the event of an earthquake).

God loves us, and He is all-powerful. As a result, sometimes He allows the natural results of this fallen world to re-calibrate our lives to trust in Him. He reminds us that we will suffer, and that suffering can have positive results in the long term.

God loves us, and He is all-powerful. Whether we are facing the crisis or see others in the midst of crisis, we can do something to help. Tragedies can bring us together in a powerful way.

God loves us, and He is all-powerful. We can trust Him and find hope in Him in this life and even in facing death. We may not know why bad things happen or why some were rescued while others were not. What we can know is this: when we turn to God, He is there for us.

Showing 6 comments
  • Idalisse

    Thank you so much for this article Eric. Im going to share it on my page. Its so heartbreaking to see people say that this is God’s punishment. It breaks my heart that some believers are not praying and instead are using this as a scare tactic to encourage others to seek God. This is what I am seeing people do here at home. Thank you for showing it in a different light. I am praying for the people of Japan and I hope this article encourages others to do the same.

  • Jason

    Great post Eric. Watched that interview as well and simply shook my head in disbelief at the question being asked about God and Japan. Love your response.

  • ymchi

    hi Eric! What thoughtful and wise words on such a difficult topic. my heart continues to cry out for Japan. we sure miss you guys!

  • scottyb2337

    God is DEFINITELY all-powerful. Another problem with this question is that it is asked with the assumption that this here and now are the MOST important things. The question really is irrelevant, although the suffering, sadness, and horror of this world are exactly that, horrible, they are not even close to what matters most. Although it sounds cliche and “churchy” the injustices of our reality are fleeting in the face of true reality. Now, by no means am I suggesting anyone toss themselves off rooftops or go on a thieving rampage, but it does soothe my fear of pain and dying to know that the true life has yet to begin. To remember that this is only temporary, a set back so to speak, a break in our return to paradise.

  • scottyb2337

    God is DEFINITELY all-powerful. Another problem with this question is that it is asked with the assumption that this here and now are the MOST important things. The question really is irrelevant, although the suffering, sadness, and horror of this world are exactly that, horrible, they are not even close to what matters most. Although it sounds cliche and “churchy” the injustices of our reality are fleeting in the face of true reality. Now, by no means am I suggesting anyone toss themselves off rooftops or go on a thieving rampage, but it does soothe my fear of pain and dying to know that the true life has yet to begin. To remember that this is only temporary, a set back so to speak, a break in our return to paradise.

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