Michael Brown: Where Was God When California Burned?

The magnitude of the recent California forest fires tragedy is staggering. As of this writing, the confirmed number of dead is more than 80 and the number still missing almost 700.

That means at least 80 people were burned alive in the blazing inferno. Wrap your mind around that for a moment, if you can.

And it’s possible that number could double. Or triple. Or quadruple. Or more. Much more.

Young and old wiped out in a moment of time. Families torn apart forever in this world. Your very worst nightmare replayed over and over again.

What a terrible, terrible tragedy. What an unspeakable disaster.

And along with the loss of life, there is the loss of property, with thousands of homes totally destroyed.

Where was God during this season of devastation and loss?

While we grieve with the survivors and their families, how do we explain such calamities?

I humbly suggest that this is not the time for cheap answers or frivolous speculation. Do you agree?

There are some devout people of faith (including Jews, Christians, and Muslims) who believe that everything that happens is ordained by God for a purpose, however mysterious that purpose might be. Nothing that happens is random, and even acts of human evil have some level of divine rationale, since God does not, in fact, stop the acts.

While this is not my own perspective, I do respect this as a posture of serious faith, echoing the plaintive words of Abraham, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (See Genesis 18:25.)

If you are a religious Jew, the first thing you say upon hearing of a death is, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, the righteous Judge.”

You acknowledge that only God gives life and takes life, hence your first response is one of worship.

Similarly, Calvinist Christians would readily echo the words of Job. He responded to the loss of all his possessions, and, infinitely more importantly, the loss of all his 10 children, with these words: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

Committed Muslims as well would acknowledge that whatever happens is Allah’s will, be it a forest fire or a glorious sunset.

Again, I respect this faith perspective, and I understand the scriptural arguments behind it. I’m just not ready to say that these terrible forest fires happened simply because God decreed they would happen.

After all, there was a terrible storm one day when Jesus was in the boat with His disciples, but He rebuked the wind and the waves, saying, “Peace be still!” Did Jesus rebuke what His Father willed? That makes very little sense. (See Mark 4:35-40.)

Some Christians see all natural disasters as acts of divine judgment, quickly pointing the finger at the sin of California.

If that is your personal view, may I ask if you’d feel the same if your church-going grandparents were among the dead? Would you be so quick to pronounce judgment if your best friend was killed?

I fully accept that God does send judgment into the earth, right until this day. And I recognize that, when a nation sins, the innocent will suffer as well. And surely our sins, as a nation, are great.

I simply urge you to think twice (or, perhaps twenty or thirty times) before deciding that you know the will of the Lord in this situation. Sometimes silence really is golden.

Others believe that it is the devil alone who kills and destroys, pointing to his murderous acts in Job 1 and 2 (although with divine permission), saying that he is the one behind tragedies like this (see John 8:44, which speaks of his evil nature).

But it is an odd theology which believes that Satan has this kind of power and yet depicts the all-powerful God as merely sitting idly by. Is this the God of the Bible?

And that brings us full circle to our fundamental question: What was the Lord doing when California burned?

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Source: Christian Post