As I watched news coverage of the extraordinary flooding in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey, I saw something that happens whenever a natural disaster occurs: people who have been rescued praise the glory of God. This is hard for me to understand. I get that they are happy and grateful that they managed to survive, but if God is really making all this happen, then God just turned their lives upside-down. Is this something they should be grateful for? It seems to me that God wreaked havoc, and destroyed or ruined a lot of lives. God didn't save them. It was the dedicated efforts of brave people who did everything they could to mitigate God's disaster that saved their lives. And it's those people who deserve the praise - not God.
I know, Christians will respond that this is all part of God's plan, and it's all for a greater good. But if you ask them exactly how any of this results in a greater good, they can't give a cogent answer. The best they can come up with is to make vague speculations about how souls will be tested, how people will prove their worthiness or fail the test. It sounds like it might make some sense in light of the concept of redemption of the soul, until you examine the reality a little more closely.
Consider that some people died in this disaster. Were they redeemed? Did they learn some eternal lesson, or did they just get snuffed out? Often it's the case that people die without ever having an opportunity to react to the situation. It's hard to imagine that they could have learned or gained something valuable by being suddenly killed. Did their death contribute to the redemption of someone else? It's hard to understand how. Is there something valuable that I could gain by another person's untimely death? Maybe I could learn something about facing adversity, but that shouldn't require that people must die. If God wanted to teach us lessons about facing adversity or being brave and virtuous, he could do that without killing people in the process. When it comes down to it, I think all those excuses people make for God's apparent wanton cruelty just don't make sense.
I found an article called Hearing the Voice of God in the Storm, that instructs Christians on how they should react to situations like this. It says the storm is how God speaks to us. It is an opportunity for us to worship and glorify God (as if that opportunity doesn't exist in everyday life). It lists 12 ways we can do this:
1. We must respond by acknowledging God's sovereignty.The more I listen to this kind of drivel, the more I become convinced that the message for Christians is just to shut up and suffer your lot. Suffering is good for you. It doesn't make any sense, but there's a reason for it all, believe me. No, seriously. Just believe me. God is great. Can't you tell?
- You are powerless. God is powerful. Don't try to change it. Just accept it.
2. Revere God's power.
- The almighty wants us to cower in his presence.
3. Take comfort in God's plan.
- Because there's no comfort to be had in God's actions.
4. We should trust in God's wisdom.
- Because none of this makes sense to mere mortals.
5. These disasters should increase our knowledge of God.
- This is the God you want to spend eternity with? Sorry, not me.
6. We should adopt an attitude of humility.
- This seems more appropriate advice for good times.
7. We should receive God's invitation to grace.
- Mother Teresa's style of grace - suffer and die for the glory of God.
8. We need to express compassion and mercy.
- I don't need a disaster to do that.
9. We need to reorient our priorities.
- If anything, we should appreciate that life is short, and we should make the most of it.
10. We need to remember the sufferings of God's Son.
- I'll remember the suffering of real people who died for no good reason.
11. We need to place our hope in God alone.
- I'll place my hope in the rescuers, thank you.
12. We should desire heaven.
- Then why be grateful about surviving?